Winter Beds Project returns to offer extra beds during the coldest months
Emergency accommodation has been secured for rough sleepers in St Albans District with the return of the annual Winter Beds Project.
St Albans City and District Council has worked with partner organisations to provide the extra beds for every rough sleeper who wants one during the cold winter months.
The number of rough sleepers in the District at any one time is very low as most people at risk of homelessness will be provided with temporary accommodation by the Council.
The Winter Beds Project is making available three self-contained cabins with a total of four beds on land managed by the charity Emmaus Hertfordshire.
This is an annual volunteer-run initiative, managed by the Open Door charity and funded jointly by them and the Council.
A further two emergency beds are available at the Open Door homeless shelter in Bricket Road, St Albans.
This is managed by Hightown Housing Association (HA) and can accommodate 12 people a night throughout the year.
Two outreach workers are active in the District to make rough sleepers aware of the support. One is employed by the Council and the other by Hightown HA with funding from the Open Door charity.
The accommodation was set up in time for the current cold snap which has seen temperatures fall below freezing point.
Councillor Jacqui Taylor, Chair of the Council’s Housing and Inclusion Committee, said:
Protecting the small number of rough sleepers we have in the District at any one time is a priority for us.
Once again, we are delivering the Winter Beds Project together with local homeless charities and organisations including Open Door, Hightown and Emmaus.
I thank them and the Winter Beds volunteers for all for their valiant efforts as without them this project would not happen. The provision of these extra beds will ensure that no one needs to sleep outside as the temperatures fall.
Cllr Taylor added:
If anyone is concerned about a rough sleeper, the best thing they can do is alert the national charity StreetLink who will inform us and other public agencies.
They can also help by supporting their local charities with a donation or by volunteering.
Lindsey McLeod, Open Door Trustee and project coordinator, said:
This is the seventh year in a row that we have run the Winter Beds Project in St Albans.
It is there to prevent people freezing on the streets when the temperatures plummet by providing them with self-contained accommodation and access to support services that address their housing and other needs.
Last winter, the project provided accommodation every night from December through to April and helped 16 people who would otherwise have slept rough.
Each cabin provides secure accommodation with heating, electricity and en-suite facilities. Guests are provided with toiletries and given breakfast each morning.
Rough sleepers given shelter are also offered long-term support to turn their lives around with the prospect of a permanent home of their own.
This support programme includes courses in life skills at Open Door which is run by Hightown Housing Association and acts as a drop-in centre during the day.
Gemma Richardson, Director of Care and Support for Hightown HA, said:
The dedicated outreach workers are busy engaging with rough sleepers so they have somewhere warm and safe to sleep during the freezing and severe weather.
Over the years, their vital advice and support has been a lifesaver to many people who have experienced sleeping rough.
Anyone concerned about a rough sleeper is advised to contact the charity StreetLink on www.streetlink.org.uk/ . They will inform the Council or other public agencies.
To volunteer to help with the Winter Beds Project, please email email@example.com.
Picture: Volunteers Mary and Jackie beside the emergency accommodation.
Media contact: John McJannet, Principal Communications Officer: 01727- 819533; firstname.lastname@example.org.