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The risks of rough sleeping have been highlighted yet again after a homeless man was electrocuted while looking for a place to sleep last month.
The 28-year-old man climbed into scaffolding at Edinburgh’s Waverly Station (pictured) and received an electric shock from overhead lines. He was found with serious burns. He was taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and then transferred to St John’s hospital in Livingston, where he received treatment for his non-life-threatening injuries.
Waverly Station was closed following the incident, but reopened within a couple of hours.
Yet as the cold weather sets in charities warn rough sleepers will continue to face risks while trying to find somewhere safe to put their head down.
Glenn Rogers of the Bethany Christian Trust said: “Rough sleepers face many dangers. If you sleep in a public space you are going to be vulnerable, particularly to assault and robbery.
“You’re an easy target for people looking to take out their frustration and it’s not uncommon for rough sleepers to be assaulted.” Winter will also take its toll, added Rogers. “Being exposed to freezing temperatures can cause long-term medical problems, particularly with circulation.
“When you’re trying to find a place to sleep and avoid unwanted attention and cold weather, you take risks you would never normally take.”
The life expectancy and suicide rate for rough sleepers reflect the dangerous reality of life on the streets.
People who sleep rough are 35 times more likely to commit suicide than the average population. A report from LSE and the homeless charity Crisis also reveals homeless people are 13 times more likely to experience violence and 47 times more likely to be victims of theft than the general population.
Glen Rogers, of the Bethany Trust, advised anyone facing homelessness or sleeping rough to seek support. “The best thing to do is access the support services available. The Bethany Trust, for example, offers a warm place to sleep and a hot meal throughout the winter months and there’s no assessment process.”
Crisis spokesman Duncan Shrubsole echoed this advice. He added: “We would always encourage rough sleepers to go to their local authority housing department and insist they are given proper advice.
“In Scotland, particularly since the passage of the Homelessness Act in 2003 which abolished the Priority Need distinction, all homeless people should be helped by their local authority and this should mean no one ends up with no option but to sleep rough.” Information on shelters can be found in The Pavement each month.
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