ROUGH sleepers can now relax at a sensory garden and have a barbecue while being supported by Swindon's longest-running homelessness charity.

Staff and residents of Threshold Housing Link enjoyed a Summer Garden Blitz event and barbecue hosted by Zurich Community Trust.

A team of volunteers from the financial firm with a base in Swindon's town centre created a sensory garden and set up a barbecue at Threshold's Pinehurst property.

Threshold’s social impact research and project worker Georgina Pitts said: "The event is an excellent example of community-driven social engagement which has a real impact upon the lives of people who are often vulnerable and not used to positive interactions and sensory experiences.

"As predominately former rough sleepers, residents quite often experienced harsh reactions from some members of the public while they were homeless, so these positive interactions help heal the emotional wounds those negative experiences inflict."

"The event was not just meaningful for residents. One participant told me that they really valued talking with residents and gaining an understanding of how they became homeless.

"Another told me that they felt great doing something for others and doing something that makes a positive difference.

Threshold Housing Link has provided support to the homeless for 47 years.

The charity offers short, medium and long-term accommodation support to rough sleepers in Swindon and carries out support services including a street outreach scheme.

Threshold relies heavily upon support from the public and from corporate donors to make a positive difference to the lives of their service users.

Georgina added: "The positive effects of sensory gardens are well established which is precisely why they are now common elements in places of education, healing, corporate environments and hospices.

"Sensory gardens are known to significantly reduce subjective stress levels, lower blood pressure, modulate sleep wake cycles, and decrease agitated mood states.

"Threshold were therefore delighted that the team from Zurich Community Trust agreed to undertake this project, and to generously donate a BBQ for the residents to use and enjoy."

The Zurich Community Trust is one of the longest-established corporate trusts in the UK, established to bring about positive change to individuals and the community.