Taking action for Bristol’s homeless

It’s Homelessness Awareness Week and with temperatures plummeting caused by artic Siberian winds – the Bristol community has been rallying round to help rough sleepers.

With ice, snow and sub-zero conditions, many local halls and venues have opened up to allow the homeless to come out of the cold. Filwood Community Centre is one of the venues on the council’s list.

Centre Manager June McNeill said: “With the three coldest days so far we had to do something. We are on the council list and were going to open up but so far we haven’t been needed…”

Across Bristol, people have been leaving donations of woolly hats, scarves and warm clothing tied to railings and lampposts for the homeless to pick up. They have been accompanied by tags saying: “I am not lost. Take this if you’re cold or if you just like it.#KeepBristolwarm.”

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Bristol Homelessness Awareness Week (February 24- 3 March) aims to raise awareness of homelessness, those at risk of becoming homeless and the issues facing rough sleepers – highlighting the long process of recovery.

This year the focus is again on help and early intervention – encouraging people to look out for each other, spot the early warning signs and take action.

Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees said: “Homelessness is not acceptable. It is a complex problem without one clear solution, but as well as tackling homelessness, it’s important we focus on preventing it happening in the first place.

“There are a lot of support and advice services available, and we are working closely with the community and voluntary sector to try and stop people falling through the gaps…”

What can we do as a community?

If you are concerned about someone who is rough sleeping ANYONE can make a street referral via Streetlink.org.uk giving the following information:

o    the rough sleeper’s name (if known)

o    physical description

o    any distinguishing characteristics (e.g. colour of distinctive clothing/possessions/sleeping bag or distinctive accent)

o    specific location where the person is sleeping

o    Time they were seen

Safer off the Streets (#SOSBristol): The four charities that provide night shelters to support rough sleepers have come together to set up a single, online crowdfunding appeal that offers people the chance to donate a specific sum – £17 – to provide one bed for one night to a homeless person. https://www.fundsurfer.com/project/bristol-rough-sleeping-partnership

There are three contactless donation stations in the City; one outside Tesco metro and Primark in Broadmead and a third at Bristol Energy hub on the Waterfront. You can donate £2 direct to the city night shelters.

The city’s night shelters can’t operate without the dedication of volunteers –  helping the homeless by giving up a night a week or a night a month. You can contact the charities directly:

·St Mungo’s: check their website for latest volunteering vacancies https://www.mungos.org/https://www.mungos.org/

·Julian Trust: telephone 0117 924 4604 http://juliantrust.org.uk/

·Crisis Centre Ministries: telephone 0117 330 1230 https://crisis-centre.org.uk/

·Caring in Bristol telephone 0117 9244 444 http://caringinbristol.co.uk/

Taking early action can avoid reaching crisis point. There is good advice and guidance available online: CAB. There are also advice and support services available in Bristol: ACFA, ACORN and Relate.