VULNERABLE young people, sex workers and others at risk of harm on the streets of Bournemouth can now get help from an unusual place.

Officials have funded a new van which will hit the road three times a week to give physical and emotional support, as well as sexual health advice and information, to those in need.

The vehicle will be staffed by helpers from the Dorset Working Women’s Project (DWWP), part of NHS Sexual Health Dorset.

Volunteers say the van, a “warm and comfortable environment” with seats and blankets, will offer a place of “safety and refuge” where visitors can discuss any problems or concerns. Toiletries, clothing, food and drink will be available, as well as condoms and safe sex information. Those who get help at the van will also be shown where to access other local services.

The service came out of Dorset HealthCare’s annual Dragons’ Den staff innovation competition.

Staff successfully bid for more than £5,300 to get the idea off the ground and Pauline Smyth, DWWP co-ordinator at the trust, said it was already making a big difference.

“The van has been a fantastic addition to our service,” she said.

“It provides a much needed support to a vulnerable and marginalised group, in a safer and more comfortable environment.”

One woman supported by the DWWP, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The team means so much to me – they make my life on the streets more bearable. I appreciate their advice and having a shoulder to cry on.”