‘Rough sleepers will die if this cold spell continues’

Homeless people at the Hub Walton Street
Homeless people at the Hub Walton Street
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WITH sub zero temperatures set to continue, Aylesbury’s homeless claim the closure of a ‘life-saving’ overnight service could result in some people freezing to death.

From December 1 last year until February 29, seven churches in the town have been taking it in turns to house up to 10 homeless people every night.

But when the scheme finishes at the end of this month, there will be no overnight accommodation and the town’s rough-sleepers will be back on the streets.

Since December, the seven churches taking part in the Winter Warmth scheme have accommodated 29 homeless people. By referring those who use the service to the relevant agencies, the scheme has helped secure permanent homes for 14 of them.

Winter Warmth is managed by Aylesbury Homeless Action Group, which is campaigning for a £40,000-a-year permanent overnight facility in the town. It is hoped that by having a permanent base, officials will find it easier to help rough-sleepers.

A homeless man, who asked not to be named, said: “It was alright in the summer in somewhere warm like by the library or a bus shelter.

“But I would have froze over the weekend without this service. This has kept us alive and fed and I would like to thank the people so much. They have been trying to help me get housed permanently as well.”

The Winter Warmth scheme is funded by private donations, Aylesbury Vale District Council, Bucks County Council and the Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust.

Denise Gibbs, manager of the action group, said: “The long term aim is to get them living in a permanent home. We are building a relationship of trust to allow them to accept the help that is available to them and make them aware of what is available.

“More often it is people losing their jobs, then because of benefit cuts they can’t get enough to live where they are living.

“They are embarrassed and mortified that it can happen to them, but it can happen to anybody. In the present climate, unemployment is on the rise and so is homelessness.

“We need a permanent night shelter. There will still be people becoming homeless in March and April.”

Suzanne Scott, who has volunteered with the Winter Warmth project since December, said: “I was appalled that there was nowhere in Aylesbury for homeless people to go other than between December and February.

“In most towns or cities there is something, I wanted to do something to help. But I’m worried, March and April can be cold and these people literally have nothing.”