Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Fast action needed to avoid deaths

September 06 2013
Leading homeless organisation urges charities to prepare for winter


A leading homeless organisation has called on charities and faith groups to prepare for the winter now, to prevent deaths during a cold snap.

The warning from Homeless Link follows concerns that up to a third of winter shelters could be affected by a recent legal ruling on housing benefit in Anglesey, North Wales, which has led some local authorities to stop paying housing benefits to ‘emergency’ housing providers.

The furore, followed closely by The Pavement for months, has meant several shelters across the country have faced closure, which in turn could leave hundreds on the streets in the cold this winter.

Homeless Link’s new report – Severe Weather Responses: Summary of Winter Provision for People Sleeping Rough 2012-2013 – found 42 services were funded through Housing Benefit. Of these 15 used housing benefit as their only source of funding.

The charity believe the true figure may be even higher as they only received responses from 126 services, and the report only takes into account emergency shelters, not the many year-round night shelters that also exist.

Homeless Link’s Chief Executive, Rick Henderson, said: “It’s a simple fact – cold weather shelters save lives.

“National and local government must ensure that the resources are in place to fund their essential work and that welfare reform does not put added pressure on already stretched services.

“We appeal to areas to start planning now for how they will ideally provide winter long shelter.”

Last year more people than ever sought shelter during the cold period. And of the 4,863 people surveyed, one in four was seeking help for the first time.

The research also found that a record number of shelters opened as temperature fell as low as almost -16C. And charities predict the demand for winter support could rise even higher this year, due to the fall-out of benefit cuts and austerity measure. The number of people sleeping rough has risen by almost a third in the past two years.

Alison Gelder, Chief Executive of Christian action group Housing Justice, said: “It is vital that Local Authorities fulfill their duty to provide shelter for everyone in their area during the cold weather.

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