Homelessness is a problem that desperately needs tackling right across the UK. In England and Wales alone, 726 rough sleepers died last year.
According to the Met Office, last night was the coldest night of the autumn so far. Temperatures fell as low as -10ºC in some parts of the country, prompting Public Health England to issue a cold weather warning that is in place until 5pm on Wednesday.
As part of the warning, they have urged people to look out for anyone who may need help to stay warm.
As a general rule, there are no legal protections for people sleeping rough in England. Most councils offer extra beds when temperatures are forecast to drop below 0ºC for three consecutive nights.
But here in Manchester, we go a step further.
Thanks to policies introduced by Andy Burnham, Manchester is the first major metropolitan area in the country to promise help as soon as the temperature drops below 0ºC.
Shelters are opened up in and around the city centre as soon as one night of freezing temperatures is forecast, and stay open until temperatures rise back up above zero, giving everyone a warm place to rest.
Accommodation varies from hostel ‘sit up’ spaces to an emergency shelter run by local charity Coffee4Craig for the council, where people are provided with sleeping bags, mats, armchairs and even a TV. And when space runs out in the hostels, people are given a hotel room for the night.
There is also the Mayor’s flagship A Bed Every Night scheme, which looks to offer a bed, hot meal and support for anyone sleeping rough in Greater Manchester at any time of year – regardless of the weather.
Earlier this year, an additional £5.6 million of funding was announced to fund extra provisions between now and March 2020, enabling the council to offer more emergency accommodation and support for up to 420 individuals.
To help vulnerable people access this winter provision, street outreach teams will be going out to people rough sleeping and offering them support to get in.
But people can also go directly to their council – by visiting their town hall, speaking with housing advice teams, talking to local support services or calling out of hours numbers.
If you spot a vulnerable person in need, you can help by making a call to the relevant area team (linked at the bottom of this article) to start the referral process.
Alternatively, you can notify Streetlink, which processes information about rough sleepers and refers them to suitable agencies. Streelink also offers a follow-up notification service where they will keep you informed of the person’s development and any assistance they receive through the charity.
As we know all too well, cold weather can prove fatal – especially for people sleeping rough on the streets, where exposure to bitterly cold wind chills can increase the risk of developing hypothermia and frostbite.
In 2017, new national statistics on patterns of death amongst rough sleepers and people living in homeless shelters revealed Manchester had the highest number of deaths amongst homeless people of any local authority in the UK.
In total, 21 people lost their lives on our streets in 2017, whilst 136 people died in London – which is made up of 33 local authorities. A tragedy we don’t want to see repeated.
If you’re concerned about someone, you can contact your local authority via one of the numbers below. Alternatively, you can use this tool to view the services on offer in your area.
Manchester city council
Referrals during the day can be made through the Council Rough Sleeper team (0161 234 5339). For referrals out of hours, call 0161 234 5001.
Salford Housing Options can be contacted on 0161 607 1620 during office hours. Beyond this, the number to dial is 0161 794 8888.
Contact Housing Options Service Trafford on 0161 793 3252, or 0800 218 2000 out of hours.
During the day, ring Bolton Town Hall on 01204 333333. Out of hours, you can refer via the duty social worker on 01204 337777.
In the day, refer through the Housing Assessment Service on 0161 253 5537. For out of hours referrals, call 0161 253 6606.
The Housing Options Team can be contacted on 01942 487 732 during the day. Out of hours referrals can be made via the duty social worker on 01942 828 777.
Call Tameside Housing Advice on 0161 331 2700 during the day, or contact out of hours support services on 0161 331 2700 or 0161 331 2888.
The number to call during the day is 0161 770 4605. For out of hours referrals, ring 0800 988 7061.
Rochdale’s cold weather service hotline can be reached on 01706 923 511 for information on accommodation.
In Stockport, residents are advised to call 0161 474 4237 with details of any vulnerable people they might be concerned about.