Snow and ice safety risks stand down homelessness activists
Sleepout 2018, an annual charity event raising tens of thousands of pounds and involving hundreds of campaigners, has been cancelled. Organisers said the event was now potentially unsafe for fundraisers and praised Bristol City Council’s emergency provision for rough sleepers.
As amber weather warnings hit Bristol, organisers at Bristol Homeless Forum agreed that essential support from St John’s Ambulance ought to be freed up in case members of the public experienced crisis at the weekend. Rough sleepers are currently accommodated in increasing numbers via Bristol City Council‘s Severe Weather Emergency Protocol.
This was to be the eleventh annual Sleepout run as a part of Bristol Homelessness Awareness Week. Each year the event raises vital funds for homelessness charities as campaigners sleep out in the car park of Pip ‘n’ Jay Church in the city centre.
Richard Drake, for Bristol Homeless Forum, says "Sleepout was to be an important public demonstration about the daily challenges faced by all too many people in our City. Although hugely disappointing for the determined and inspiring volunteers involved, it is only right that actual emergency provision for Bristol people takes precedent over the event.”
Jessie Cross, 21 and from Bath, is a volunteer at One25 who was coordinating a cohort of campaigners, says: “It makes perfect sense to call off the event but we are determined to continue raising funds and awareness. I’ll still be swapping my comfort for concrete and sleeping on my kitchen floor with no hot water for two nights! And I know more One25 fundraisers will still be making a stand on Friday through safe means.”
Many of the fundraisers, who’ve now been stood down, actively volunteer with and support the organisations they represent. Organised by Bristol Homeless Forum the Sleepout raises funds for several local organisations, including The Julian Trust, Crisis Centre Ministries, One25, Christ Church Clifton, The Big Issue, Caring in Bristol, Emmaus Bristol, Help Bristol’s Homeless, See Change and Ebenezer Church.
Last year One25 supported 139 women to get into emergency accommodation, hostels and their own tenancies. The stability of housing is often the necessary starting point for working on the trauma of violence and abuse, addiction and poverty. So Homelessness Awareness Week is also a celebration of some of the great work taking place in the Bristol.
Bristol Homelessness Awareness Week has been helping people in Bristol to understand that the process of recovery for many rough sleepers is long - and that those experiencing homelessness face many other issues. Particularly, it has encouraged community action – for people to look out for each other, spot early warning signs and work together.
The Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) is activated when weather is predicted to be below zero for three consecutive nights or more. The 60 extra places are a vital provision but the facilities are not suitable for long term night shelter. Outreach teams from St Mungo’s actively engage people who are rough sleeping to direct them to the Compass Centre on Jamaica Street where the extra bed spaces are allocated.
Bristol Homelessness Awareness Week (February 24- 3 March) aims to raise awareness of homelessness, those at risk of becoming homeless and the issues facing rough sleepers - highlighting the long process of recovery.
This year the specific focus is again on help and early intervention. The aim is to encourage people to look out for each other, spot the early warning signs and take action.
Further information about the help available for anyone who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless is available at the council’s website at https://www.bristol.gov.uk/en_US/housing/homeless-or-at-risk-of-being-homeless and the recently launched Homeless Connect website https://bristolhomelessconnect.com/
There are a number of organisations and partnerships working together in Bristol to support those who are homeless and those at risk of homelessness. These organisations include Bristol City Council, St Mungo’s, Golden Key, The Julian Trust, One25, Crisis Centre Ministries and Caring in Bristol.
A Rough Sleeping Partnership (The RSP) designed to reduce and prevent homelessness was set up by Bristol City Council in 2015. The RSP is working with the City Office, which has committed to providing both short and long term solutions to the homeless problems in the city. In 2015 there were 30 emergency night shelter beds across the charities but these were not enough and people who were rough sleeping were being turned away at the door. The RSP introduced two more night shelters. This has provided 35 extra shelter beds, bringing the total across our four night shelters to 65.
The partnership has also opened up four property guardianship projects (20 bed spaces) using empty City Council properties to provide accommodation for individuals who are able to maintain a property and meet their rental commitments. More are opening this year.
Bristol City Council is also bringing empty properties back into use as temporary accommodation for vulnerable families. The aim is to provide a quick solution to prevent people ending up on the streets and reduce the council’s reliance on private sector providers and the associated costs.
Bristol City Council currently funds around 1,100 beds in hostels and supported accommodation which helps people when they have moved away from the streets.
The city council is one of a number of partners in the city working to prevent homelessness by working with vulnerable single people and families who are at risk before they become homeless. In 2015/16 we collectively prevented almost 4,348 homeless households from becoming homeless, a rise from almost 3,500 in 2012-2013.
What can we do as a community?
If you are concerned about someone who is rough sleeping ANYONE can make a street referral via Streetlink.org.uk giving the following information:
o the rough sleeper’s name (if known)
o physical description
o any distinguishing characteristics (e.g. colour of distinctive clothing/possessions/sleeping bag or distinctive accent)
o specific location where the person is sleeping
o Time they were seen
Safer off the Streets (#SOSBristol): The four charities that provide night shelters to support people who are rough sleeping have come together to set up a single, online crowdfunding appeal that offers people the chance to donate a specific sum - £17 – to provide one bed for one night to a homeless person. https://www.fundsurfer.com/project/bristol-rough-sleeping-partnership
There are three contactless donation stations in the City; one outside Tesco Metro and Primark in Broadmead and a third at Bristol Energy hub on the Waterfront. You can donate £2 direct to the city night shelters.
None of our night shelters can operate without the dedication of volunteers, and in Bristol, helping the homeless by giving up a night a week or a night a month is the best way. You can contact the charities directly:
· St Mungo’s: check their website for latest volunteering vacancies https://www.mungos.org/
· Julian Trust: telephone 0117 924 4604 http://juliantrust.org.uk/
· Crisis Centre Ministries: telephone 0117 330 1230 https://crisis-centre.org.uk/
· Caring in Bristol telephone 0117 9244 444 http://caringinbristol.co.uk/
Taking early action can avoid reaching crisis point. There is good advice and guidance available online: CAB. There are also advice and support services available in Bristol: ACFA, ACORN and Relate.
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, Sleep Out 2018
, Sleeping Rough