Salvation Army warns of worst Christmas for rough sleepers in years

published on 14 Oct 2020

The Salvation Army is incredibly concerned for rough sleepers this winter because many night shelters will not be available this year as they can’t be made COVID safe.

The pandemic means that many traditional ‘dormitory’ style shelters are now too dangerous leading to a dramatic drop in emergency beds across the country.

Many 'dormitory' shelters will be closed this year because of the pandemic.

The Government has announced funding to help local authorities house people who would usually be on the streets in winter, but it is trying to solve a growing rough sleeping problem with one million pounds less than was committed last year.

Worst still, we know the Government figures underestimate how many rough sleepers there are by around 41% making it even less likely that allocated funding will stretch far enough.

This winter, The Salvation Army will be offering things like hot takeaway meals, sleeping bags and specialist support. This front-line care is in addition to pioneering work with local authorities to open self-contained accommodation known as ‘nap pads’ which are COVID safe.

We will have boots on the ground to reach those who can't find shelter with hot food, blankets, hygiene kits and specialist support.
Lorrita Johnson, The Salvation Army's Director of Homelessness Services

The Salvation Army's Director of Homelessness Services, Lorrita Johnson, said: “The extra money from the Government is not enough to help plug the gaping hole in provision.

“We don’t want to leave anyone alone in the cold but know we can’t reach everyone and so The Salvation Army is calling on the Government to urgently ensure it has provided enough money to keep people off the streets this winter. It also needs to commit to counting how many rough sleepers they need to support as official figures gravely underestimate the need.

“The Salvation Army has been preparing for this crisis for a number of months. We will have boots on the ground to reach those who can’t find shelter with hot food, blankets, hygiene kits and specialist support.”

Person sleeping rough on the streets
The Salvation Army will go out to people sleeping rough to give them direct support.

The Salvation Army is hard at work reaching people in need around the country:

  • In Inverness, the corps (church) there is serving takeaway hot meals for rough sleepers. Lieutenant Helen Froud of Inverness Corps said: “I’m always worried about rough sleepers! People who sleep rough are often people in severe crisis or with long-term mental health problems or addictions. As Inverness gets very cold in the winter, we’re helping some local rough sleepers who are camping out in the country.”
  • In London, The Salvation Army has opened bed spaces in Westminster to rough sleepers coming out of hospital. Being discharged straight onto the street can cause health conditions to worsen and means they are more likely to end up back in A&E. The scheme originally started when hospital beds needed to be freed up for COVID patients and is continuing to support patients through the cold months and reduce pressure on the NHS.
  • The corps at Crewe in Cheshire would regularly serve 30 people with hot meals and drinks before the coronavirus crisis. They are continuing to feed people temporarily housed as they can’t afford to buy food. The corps is looking at how it can safely expand this service during the winter. Major Steven Watson said: “We want to open up the hall and make people feel welcome within COVID guidelines. We also want to have someone who is listening, alongside them, homelessness can affect anyone, and we all need to be heard.” 

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