Call for “out of hours” provision to help the homeless

It's hoped the homeless of Wakefield will be helped further.
It's hoped the homeless of Wakefield will be helped further.

A councillor is calling for more help to be given to Wakefield’s homeless people during evenings and weekends.

Coun Betty Rhodes wants “out of hours” provision to be improved for rough sleepers when homeless charities and council services are closed.

She said that during the recent cold weather she had been contacted by a woman who had taken a rough sleeper into her home for something to eat, but was unsure how to help him further.

Although it is not a legal requirement, Wakefield is one of hundreds of local authorities to offer emergency shelter to the homeless during “severe weather”, but only when temperatures plummet to freezing point or below.

Speaking at a scrutiny meeting on Monday Coun Rhodes said more needed to be done in circumstances when it was cold, but above the temperature threshold.

She said: “I had a call from a resident who’d actually taken in a lad because it wasn’t cold enough to trigger the emergency accommodation.

“She’d taken him into her flat off Westgate and he was a lad from Pontefract who needed helping. The place he was getting help from was closed.

“There must be more provision, particularly out of hours when it’s bad weather, but not cold enough to trigger the emergency support, because there are still people who need support.

“I thought about this young man. He’d travelled from Pontefract to Wakefield but where was he going to travel onto?

“What we need is some sort of system, be it a phone number or whatever, so that people can say, “Here, young person, this is where you need to go.”

A report prepared for councillors says that the number of people applying to be officially classed as homeless has increased by eight per cent from last year.

Coun Richard Forster said: “I think we need to recognise some of the excellent work our partners are doing in this area.

“It’s difficult because the numbers are growing. It’s tragic.”

Guidance issued by the organisation Homeless Link, which is followed by councils across the country, says: “There are currently no legal protections for people sleeping rough in England during severe weather – the

provision of shelter is not a statutory duty, even when conditions are life threatening.

“However, there is a humanitarian obligation on local authorities to do all they can to prevent deaths on the streets, and for their partners and the public to support these efforts.”