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The British weather is well known for being capricious. In just a few months the UK has experienced ‘The Beast from the East’ – a cold wave that brought heavy snowfall and arctic temperatures, ‘Storm Emma’, with fierce winds that caused landfall and a mini heatwave with temperatures soaring to 26C.
For most of us, the variable weather provides a chance to get outside and savour the warmth or, at worst, an inconvenience that disrupts our normal routine for a day or two or encourages us to travel more carefully.
For others, it can be deadly.
Regardless of the weather, even if unbearably hot or dangerously cold, rough sleepers risk their lives trying to get through the day or last the night. The unpredictable weather can make night times particularly difficult and even hazardous when it’s cold.
For city dwellers in particular, seeing a rough sleeper can be, sadly, an every day occurrence and it’s natural to offer food or money, both of which may be appreciated. However, it can be difficult to know the best course of action, especially when many people who are begging are not sleeping rough and equally, not all people who sleep rough, beg. In the longer term, giving money to people who are begging may aid harmful or destructive behaviours.
That’s where StreetLink can help. Operated in partnership between Homeless Link and St Mungo’s and funded by local government grants, StreetLink is an initiative operating across England and Wales that exists to help end rough sleeping. Its website, mobile app and phone line enables members of the public to connect people sleeping rough with the local services that can support them.
If you are concerned about someone sleeping rough, you can be ‘the eyes’ of local services and use StreetLink’s website, mobile app or phone line to send an alert.
Callers are asked to provide the following information which is sent to the local authority or outreach team concerned:
- The location of the rough sleeping site – using a map to pinpoint the exact location and providing a written description of the location as people tend to sleep in quieter locations rather than exposed ones.
- The time the rough sleeper has been seen at the location – rough sleepers usually sleep at night but if someone is seen during the day they can be signposted to daytime services.
- The activity – whether someone is sleeping, begging or being engaged in street activity.
- Description of the rough sleeper – such as their gender, approximate age, what they look like and what they are wearing.
People from Streetlink’s trained outreach team, commissioned by the local council to provide a service in the area, will then try to look for a rough sleeper they have been alerted to. On average this is a maximum of three times over a ten working day period.
When a member of the public sends an alert, they receive details of the action the local authority normally takes when informed someone is sleeping rough in their area and an update on the outcome of the alert within 10 working days (if you requested).
With a initiative like this, an alert could lead to a person sleeping rough receiving support, taking into account each different situation. The services team will normally first undertake an assessment and then work with the individual to find agreeable solutions to try to end their rough sleeping, such as temporary accommodation.
Anyone can become homeless, and sleeping rough is not only dangerous but can also have a long-term effect on an individual’s health. One small action taken by you today could have important consequences, so if you see a person sleeping rough, maybe this time don’t walk on, look down at your phone or simply give them a sympathetic smile. There’s a way to help.
Nobody should be sleeping outside, whatever the weather.
PHONE LINE: 0300 500 0914