A number of our lifehouses offer emergency accommodation on a night-by-night basis to people who have nowhere else to stay. The accommodation is basic but safe and secure and the staff on duty are available to support the individual through the night. In most lifehouses, free meals are provided and the individual is able to keep warm and feel safe for the night. As well as people sleeping on the streets, this may include ‘sofa surfers’ or people with no recourse to public funds who are running out of options for where they can receive support and offers of help.
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During periods of extreme weather, our lifehouses and churches make use of all available space in order to protect people from the cold. People are at their most vulnerable when the temperature drops, and many people sleeping rough will drink alcohol or take substances to help them get off to sleep in the cold. This has many ramifications for their body and the body’s ability to regulate their temperature. People are at severe risk of hypothermia, and it is our responsibility to ensure that we do what we can to prevent loss of life.
Many Salvation Army churches are part of a cold weather night shelter scheme with other churches in their area. Many work on a rota basis where halls and community areas are opened up for people sleeping rough.
We have a wide range of services across the UK and the Republic of Ireland that work with people who have to sleep rough. Our role in all cases is to meet an immediate need either through providing support and basic supplies where possible, or by referring into emergency accommodation where available. With everyone we meet, we try to establish why they are sleeping rough and what barriers they may be facing to access mainstream services. From this point, we are then able to signpost to suitable day services or arrange for a specialist team to support the individual. During the course of an evening, trained staff and volunteers complete assessments with people and refer them into emergency accommodation for the night, where they get respite at least for one evening. Appointments are also made with day services for the following day so that people have an opportunity to access more stable accommodation.
Centenary House in Belfast provides 12 emergency bed spaces every evening to people sleeping rough in the city. Referrals to day services and housing options are made to give maximum opportunity for people to access mainstream support and more permanent housing.
We have some well-established outreach projects across the UK and the Republic of Ireland, a prime example of which is our Bus Project in Cardiff.
Providing services five days a week, 52 weeks a year, the Bus Project is a converted double decker bus. With office space and a medical suite, people who are sleeping rough can access emergency care and support when they may be excluded from mainstream services. The service also provides food and hot drinks, and acts as a shelter for people in bad weather.