Volunteer-run emergency beds help rough sleepers off the street
This winter, new emergency beds have been run by a group of volunteers to assist more people off the streets and into safer, more stable accommodation.
Under the council’s extended cold weather provision for winter nights between 1 November and 28 February, a scheme called Yes Below Zero has started, creating additional bed spaces.
The council has converted a flat at a hostel, into a five-bedded emergency base for people needing a safe place to sleep and support.
Yes Below Zero beds are allocated to individuals by the Salvation Army. This is done from their early help and prevention hub at 63 Lawrence Street, where rough sleepers are asked to go for a bed and appropriate support.
The Yes Below Zero beds are run by a group of volunteers from the One Voice York charity. The Yes Below Zero volunteers have been trained and supported by council and Salvation Army staff, and they work with the council’s homelessness services to provide the emergency accommodation.
In the first two months of operating the five beds in November and December 2018, 15 people have been helped by Yes Below Zero. They have all been given accommodation, advice and support by the scheme and, so far, five of them have been supported into employment.
Of those 15 people, five have found and moved into private rented accommodation and one person has moved into an independent living scheme. One individual has moved to longer-term temporary accommodation and three others have moved on to stay with friends, through reconnection. Five people are currently living there while permanent and appropriate accommodation is found.
Of the council’s other 24 emergency beds, in the first two months of their opening in November and December 2018, a total 93 people – including those supported by Yes Below Zero, have been helped.
Charles Walters, co-chair of One Voice York, said: “I have the privilege of co-ordinating the team that is working to provide emergency shelter under the name of Yes Below Zero. The council team at the hostel have been brilliant working alongside us and making it easy to serve. The team at the Salvation Army have also helped us ease into the work of meeting the needs of those sleeping rough when the weather is severe. Anyone who would like to join us in our work, please contact us via http://onevoiceyork.org.uk/.”
Councillor Jenny Brooks, executive member for housing and safer neighbourhoods, said: “We don’t want anyone to suffer the misery and uncertainty of living on the streets, which is why we created an extra 11 emergency beds this winter to provide a total 29.
“Thanks to the commitment of this group working day in, day out with our homelessness team, we’ve been able to support 15 people into a better quality of life. I’m very grateful to the Yes Below Zero team for their work.”
Cllr Carol Runciman, executive member for adult social care and health, said: “Supporting people off the streets into safer lives is a year-round issue. We have opportunities for volunteers to help homeless people in a huge range of different ways.
“From giving haircuts to donating toiletries to offering regular lessons in life or work skills, please see how you can help at www.york.gov.uk/RoughSleeping.”
Anyone concerned about individuals sleeping rough can ring Streetlink on 0300 500 0914, a national helpline which will ask local agencies to respond.