With the inbound of heavy snow, sub-zero temperatures and forceful winds this week, The St Petroc’s Society has opened an emergency shelter to house rough sleepers in Cornwall.
Their Resource Centre, based in Truro, is planned to be running 24 hours a day until March 5th, through what is called a ‘Cold Weather Provision’.
So far, they have housed 14 people through the dangerous weather caused by the ‘Beast of the East’ and Storm Emma. Red warnings issued by the Met Office mean that they expect to see more rough sleepers arrive at the shelter over the next coming days.
Jessica Hodges, Society Administrator at St Petroc’s Society said: “When people come to us, they are probably as you’d expect, very cold and wet. They are very hungry and they will really be feeling the effects of the cold…
“If you get a sleeping bag cold and wet, you’ll never warm up. So, our team have a bag of supplies ready and everything else you could think of really.”
The charity reaches out to Cornwall’s homeless by encouraging the public to use the mobile app StreetLink, which alerts charities and authorities of the location of rough sleepers.
This week, StreetLink has received over 4,500 referrals across the UK, their highest number since launching over five years ago.
Although the number of rough sleepers in England has risen by 73% in the past three years, Cornwall is one of the few local authorities where the problem seems to be improving.
Decreasing by a third, we have seen the biggest reduction of street homelessness in the country – but Jessica believes that there is still a “long way to go”.
She added: “The Cornish public are always outstanding and always rise to the challenge. We have so many donations of money and food… We’re always overwhelmed by the support of the public and we want to say a massive thank you for that.
“There are always misconceptions about people sleeping rough but we are really lucky that people down here are really caring. I can only comment in Cornwall and we have some really open-minded and generous people.”
In a press release, Cornwall Council Cabinet Member for Homes Andrew Mitchell said: “People who are sleeping rough will be particularly vulnerable in the cold weather, so we are doing all we can to make sure they can access warmth and shelter.
Whatever the weather, our goal is to work with rough sleepers to help them to find more permanent accommodation and access support services.”
If you see somebody who might need help, you can download the StreetLink app or call them on 0300 500 0914. Alternatively, contact St Petroc’s Society directly via their Resource Centre on 01872 264153.