Homeless suffer in severe snowfall

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brownpauAs much of Britain has ground to a halt under severe snowfall, homeless organisations have ramped up their efforts to make sure that the toughest hit make it through the period.

Students have also been encouraged to help homeless charities as they struggle to ensure that all rough sleepers are taken in, as temperatures reach sub-zero levels.

Some homeless people, however, have claimed not enough is being done to help them. Carl, a rough sleeper who frequents St Giles Street said: “I’ve slept rough lots of times over the winter.”

He claims that it was only after having his dog stolen during the vac that he’d found it easier to be admitted to rooms at Oxford’s Homeless Pathway’s O’Hanlon House (formerly Oxford Night Shelter), and expressed concerns that he might continue to struggle to find a bed were he not to raise the £3.50 that is usually required to guarantee a space.

However, Oxford Homeless Pathways were adamant that every effort would be made to provide somewhere to sleep for anyone without a bed.

Lesley Dewhurst, the charity’s chief executive said: “When the weather is like this (or, at the very least, forecast to be zero or below for up to three nights) we open up extra space to accommodate anyone who is sleeping rough.

“Our hostel is full pretty much every night of the year, so we are always turning people away. Normally, they would have to sleep rough or find a friend’s sofa to sleep on.”

“However, we want to make sure that no-one dies at this time of the year, so open up extra space in cold weather.”

This policy, carried out in conjunction with other hostels in Oxford means that “at the moment, around 20 people are accommodated this way- around 10 in O’Hanlon House and the others split between other hostels.”

When temperatures are forecast to fall below zero over three consecutive nights, Oxford Homeless Pathways initiates the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP). These are a set of procedures outlined by Homeless Link, a charity and company which represents 500 organisations working with homeless people in the UK. SWEP encourages the free provision of bed space to all rough-sleepers during sub-zero periods.

However, demand means that these provisions are lifted when temperatures, whilst still dangerously cold, no longer meet the requirements outlined by SWEP.

A spokesman for Crisis, a national charity for homeless people said: “But, regardless, it’s shocking that there are people out there on the streets as when the temperature returns to ‘normal’, they’ll be right back outside.

“Rough sleepers can and do die in these temperatures.”

Oxford Homeless Pathways’ chief executive Dewhurst said: “Students can help in a number of ways: by phoning 01865 304611 or emailing info@nsno-oxford.org when they find someone sleeping rough, giving as much detail as possible about location, time and description of the rough sleeper. Then the Oxford City Outreach team will go and find them and make sure they are given the chance of coming in out of the cold.”

Or they can help by donating things like towels, toiletries and non-perishable food stuffs to O’Hanlon House, at www.oxhop.org.uk.”

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