Glasgow & West Scotland

Charities call for Glasgow homeless shelter to open early

Homeless person sleeping Image copyright Getty Images

Charities in Glasgow are calling on the city council to open its winter shelter early after an unexpected cold snap saw temperatures plummet below freezing.

Concern was raised after the death of a man who was found in a city centre car park on Sunday although the council has now established he was not homeless.

Temperatures in Scotland fell to -8.1C (17.4F) on Sunday, while it was -8C (17.6F) in Glasgow on Monday night.

The city's winter night shelter is not due to open its doors until 1 December.

Glasgow City Mission which runs the shelter, said it was monitoring the situation to see if action needed to be taken earlier.

Glasgow's Health and Social Care partnership said that while the death of the man found in the car park was a "tragedy", it was not directly related to provision of the temporary shelter service.

A spokeswoman said: "The man who died tragically after becoming unwell in a car park on Sunday was not homeless. Sadly, his death is believed to be drug-related.

"However, concerns about adverse weather and rough sleepers are completely understandable and as happens every year, homelessness services have already worked with partners, including Glasgow City Mission, on winter contingency plans which will be activated in exceptional circumstances."

Pressure on services

Street charities have claimed Glasgow City Council is "failing" homeless people after almost £3m of budget cuts to services came into force on 1 October.

These cuts affected 970 temporary properties managed by service providers for the council across the city, and equate to the loss of 99 beds.

Simon Community Scotland, one of the organisations GCC employs to provide services to homeless people sleeping on the streets in Glasgow, said its supplies were running dangerously low.

The charity plans for the coldest weather to come in February in March, so the past week's low temperatures have been a challenge.

Director of services Hugh Hill told the BBC: "We are rapidly going through our stocks of winter supplies - thermals, sleeping bags etc. We are flying through them and we are not due to launch our appeal until December."

Image copyright Mark Gibson
Image caption Shelter staged a protest outside the city chambers in Glasgow last summer

The Glasgow Winter Night Shelter opens on 1 December until 31 March.

It is run by Glasgow City Mission on behalf of the council and several other partner charities and agencies to provide overnight emergency accommodation.

The charity said it was monitoring overnight temperatures "in case there's a requirement for an emergency shelter in the run up to 1 December".

A spokesman said: "If this is necessary, we will call upon previously trained staff and volunteers to staff these nights. It is essential that any night shelter, emergency or planned, is a safe place for our guests. We will ensure the proper procedures and fully trained staff are in place."

Sean Clerkin, campaigns co-ordinator for the Scottish Tenants Organisation, says more buildings need to be made available for emergency accommodation.

He said: "We are calling for Glasgow City Council to open up some public buildings to house the homeless overnight.

"They need to provide a warm, secure environment with food, sleeping bags and medical advice."

'Gatekeeping'

In October the homelessness charity Shelter Scotland announced it was mounting a legal action against the council, claiming it was failing in its legal duty to provide temporary accommodation.

It followed concerns over "gatekeeping", where a homeless person is denied access to services and the charity claimed people have been illegally denied a place in temporary accommodation.

But the council said its services face "significant, perhaps unique" pressures compared to other parts of Scotland.

Image copyright Glasgow City Mission
Image caption The Winter night shelter will not open until 1 December

Shelters 'not the solution'

The homelessness charity Crisis said there was a wider failure by society to address the issues that lead to homelessness.

Crisis Scotland director Grant Campbell told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland it was likely "society didn't fail this individual last night or the night before but just over the past 10 years, 15 years, 20 years."

He added: "Statistically we find out that often people who are stuck on the streets have been through sometimes a life of care, have been in and out of prison, often struggle with mental health issues.

"Society has had a touch point with an individual for many, many years and occasions - so this failure wasn't just at one point but was for a prolonged period of time."

Mr Campbell, however, said he believed temporary shelters were "not the solution".

"There is great compassion in society to say we want to do the right thing for people and that often leads us to build shelters," he said.

"However, the real challenge, if we really want to find solutions, is actually to look at housing. Each year we say 'we don't have enough housing, let's put a shelter in place', the temptation to grow shelters means we will fill more of them and they go on for longer.

"Next year we could have two or three and not move away from that. We have got to keep challenging Scottish government and local government to do more regarding housing and look for other solutions, which there are."

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