An emergency scheme to provide a warm bed for those sleeping rough as temperatures plunge below zero has been activated for 48 nights since it started in October – a increase of 14 nights since last year.
It takes place from October 1 to April 30 to stop rough sleepers dying on the streets. Hope Housing, a charity which along with 12 other voluntary and community organisations, and Bradford Council, offers the service.
Hope Housing said that a cold snap in November and the recent freezing spell, with temperatures dropping to minus 9C, had led to increased demand, with 20 people a night accessing their service.
In the year 2011-12, there were 34 nights when the provision was activated. Adam Clarke, the project co-ordinator at Hope Housing, said that the Council was leading the way by being open every night when the temperatures hit zero rather than three nights in a row before opening like neighbouring authorities.
He urged anyone who knows of someone sleeping in abandoned buildings to contact them.
“We open extra bed spaces by using communal spaces in hostels and organisations go above and beyond what they normally do as part of this provision,” he said.
“We go above the national guidelines of opening after three nights at zero or below to opening every night in those circumstances to provide rough sleepers from dying in freezing conditions.
“This provision has been going for five years and if the rooms and hostels get full, the Council will pay for someone to go into a Bed and Breakfast.
“We were open for ten days over Christmas as a goodwill gesture and then for two weeks in November.
“Now it is seriously cold and we are giving people food parcels put together with the help of a dietician.
“If the temperature changes during the day the provision will still remain open. The temperature is due to drop to minus 9 this week and people are not going to sleep out in that. We want to make sure people don’t stay out on the streets, we are there to prevent people dying.”
Councillor Val Slater, Bradford Council's executive member for housing, planning and transport, said it was a welcome scheme.
The charity has been awarded £5,000 from the Government’s Warm Homes scheme to help emergency sleepers access more long term accommodation.
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