27 Jan 2016

Housing and Planning

New bed spaces for the city's homeless

More temporary accommodation for homeless people is opening up in the city thanks to the new rough sleeping task group.

The group, set up by Mayor George Ferguson is working hard to address the problem of street homelessness in the city.

Before Christmas it was announced that 20 extra beds were being provided in conjunction with St Mungo’s.

This emergency accommodation is available for clients who are being assessed by the Outreach team or who are waiting for a place in a hostel or supported accommodation. It offers a bed for the night while an individual’s housing plan is assessed or until a place becomes available.

And now a number of other bed spaces will be made available over the coming weeks.

In conjunction with a faith based organisation in the city a new central 15 bed shelter is being opened at the start of February.

This will provide a seven day a week service, depending on the number of volunteers available, principally for people with a local connection to Bristol who are waiting for supported accommodation through council’s Housing Support Register.

There is also an agreement in place to use two currently empty buildings to provide up to 10 additional longer-term beds for the next 12 months.  

These initiatives are on top of the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) that is already in place for when consecutive nights of severe weather are predicted.  This year, because of the increased number of people currently sleeping rough, 115 emergency bed spaces will be available during severe weather periods. 

George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol, said: "We are now seeing the positive results of the commitments I made before Christmas with beds coming on line to offer more support for the most vulnerable people in the city.

“This is one of the biggest issues we face as a city, as it should be a basic right for everyone to have a place to call their own.

“Rough sleepers are the tip of the homelessness iceberg which has become a huge national issue. We have a duty to help all those struggling to keep a roof over their heads and I am grateful to our many partners in helping us to face this emergency.

“This is an extremely challenging issue, which requires a wide range of solutions. There is still much work to be done, but the partners behind the task group are continuing to work together to explore and implement all practical solutions.”

The multi-agency Rough Sleeping Task Group is being led by St Mungo's and includes the council, other partners, faith groups, and the police.

To make these new shelters a success, people are needed to help staff the centres, and St Mungo’s is appealing for volunteers who can offer to help out overnight on a regular basis or as extra cover during cold weather. Training will be provided.

Adam Rees, regional director for St Mungo’s and chair of the Rough Sleeping Task Group, said: “We will be working to get people quickly off the streets into accommodation, helping them to secure longer term housing, support around health and work so that they can start to rebuild their lives.

“During winter, health issues around rough sleeping are exacerbated and people’s mental health can deteriorate. 

“Clients will be referred to the shelter from our own teams and other partners in the city, including Bristol Council housing options, and will work to identify the most appropriate route off the streets in their individual circumstances.

“We have had a great response already from volunteers to help out in the shelter but urge people to please keep getting in touch to lend their support.”

Another way to help is by alerting St Mungo’s to people you see sleeping rough around the city. The public can let the rough sleeping team know where people are sleeping so that they can access accommodation and support by contacting the national ‘helpline’ Street Link.  All contacts to Street Link are then referred to the local St Mungo’s rough sleeper outreach team. Street Link can be found on the web at: http://www.streetlink.org.uk/

If you would like to get involved and are interesting in volunteering with St Mungo’s you should email bristolshelter@mungos.org