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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Chill factor

February 03 2010

As temperatures across Scotland plummeted over the past few weeks, homeless charities voiced concerns over how the severe weather affected those living on the streets. With the worst snow and ice in half a century (temperatures in some areas plunged as low as -22.3C) urgent measures were taken to provide temporary accommodation for those sleeping rough.

Local authorities were urged to make ‘emergency arrangements’ by increasing their efforts to help ensure that vulnerable people are not sleeping in the sub-zero conditions which have proved to life threatening - preliminary figures show that 1,506 deaths were registered in Scotland in the first week of January, 21 per cent above the average for the corresponding week over the last five years.

The Government contacted councils to outline a number of essential measures. These included working with day centres to remain open at night if necessary; advertising contact numbers for the public to use to report homeless people who may need assistance; and collaborating with local hostels to provide emergency places.

Meanwhile, homeless charities across the country worked tirelessly to provide immediate shelter for rough sleepers during the cold spell. The Simon Community, for example, made a huge effort to expand the availability of provisional accommodation. Eileen McDade, Head of Services at the Simon Community in Glasgow, says, “Over the Christmas and New Year period, our Street service was able to access temporary accommodation for people whom they found to be sleeping rough. In addition, thanks to donations from various schools and churches, we were able to buy better quality sleeping bags and warmer clothing, for people were reluctant to move into accommodation.’

Shelter Scotland also stressed to local councils not to evict anyone from hostels unless they have somewhere to go, and to make more efforts to find out exactly where people are sleeping rough.