Homeless shelter will not open early

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Charities called for winter shelter to open doors following death of rough sleeper in Glasgow.

19th November 2019 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

Glasgow’s winter homelessness shelter will not open early this year, it has been confirmed.

It comes after calls for the Winter Night Shelter to be opened following the death of a rough sleeper in sub-zero temperatures last weekend.

The 43-year-old man was found in the Mitchell Lane car park on Sunday evening, when temperatures in some parts of the country dropped to -8C. He was pronounced dead shortly after.

Following the man’s death, the council was urged to open the doors of its winter shelter earlier than the scheduled date of 1 December.

However, Glasgow City Mission, which operates the shelter on behalf of Glasgow City Council, said it would not be moving the date forward.

A spokesman said: “Glasgow City Mission is continuing to plan for the opening of the tenth consecutive Glasgow Winter Night Shelter on 1 December. This will again be based at the Lodging House Mission in East Campbell Street.

“The Glasgow Winter Night Shelter, which opens for four months, takes a long time to plan and build up to annually. Today we delivered the duvets to the night shelter and we will have all necessary supplies, such as mattresses and first aid kits, in place for our opening.”

The spokesman added that, while the shelter would not be fully open until next month, it was ready to provide emergency shelter should temperatures drop to dangerous levels before then.

“It is essential that any night shelter, emergency or planned, is a safe place for our guests,” he said.

Last winter, 691 people stayed at the night shelter at some point between the beginning of December and the end of March. Although this was 16% more than the previous year, the shelter said the average length of stays was shorter.

This reduction came because of the work of partner agencies and council staff who worked with the shelter to find alternate accommodation for those in need.

Homelessness support services across Glasgow have reported additional pressures caused by the early cold weather this year, while other service providers struggle with council budget cuts.

Simon Community Scotland, which works with the council to provide services to rough sleepers, told the BBC their supplies were already running low.

"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,” said service director Hugh Hill.

Crisis Scotland said that while shelters provide a valuable service, they should not be seen as a solution to homelessness – and in some cases could have detrimental effects on the mental or physical health of people who use them.

The charity, which is working with the Scottish Government to establish new strategies for dealing with homelessness, says a more holistic approach is needed to tackle the problem. 

Director Grant Campbell said this should include a duty of prevention, so that those in risk of homelessness could be identified and supported as early as possible.

Mr Campbell also identified Universal Credit and a lack of affordable housing as key barriers to reducing homelessness.

He said: “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.

“What we really need is housing. Shelters aren’t the answer to anything – all they show is that we as a society have failed people.”