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Appeal to reach out to rough sleepers in Guildford

4 minute read
Appeal to reach out to rough sleepers in Guildford

Published at 6:00am 18th December 2017.

In the lead up to Christmas, we are being asked to reach out to the homeless in Guildford.

A service in the town is urging us to get in touch if we come across rough sleepers during freezing weather.

Funded by Guildford Borough Council,  HOST (Homeless Outreach and Support Team), run by Riverside Care and Support, helps them find shelter when Severe Weather Emergency Provision (SWEP) comes into force - when the Met Office forecasts three nights or more of temperatures of zero degrees Celsius or below.

SWEP also operates beyond this criteria if weather conditions are severe. 

It works in partnership with local  homeless providers, such as Number 5 Project in York Road - a shelter offering emergency accommodation.

It also supports people in coming off the streets, or who are at risk of homelessness.

30 year old Alex is one of them. He found himself on the streets earlier this year, after years of drug and alcohol abuse during his time working in the music business as a DJ.

The father-of-three said he ended up in a downward spiral as a result of his addictions - losing his family and friends - and eventually ending up homeless.

He described how he got by on the streets on a daily basis: "I stole, I sold things, I sold things that weren't mine, I begged, I asked for loans from people.

"It makes me shiver now to think of the things that I've done in order to get by."

He told Eagle how lonely it was on the streets: "In that environment you don't actually know who your friends are, or who you can trust, because it is about survival, especially at this time of year."

Alex told Eagle he hit rock bottom on his 30th birthday - when he realised he desperately needed help: "It's so hard, when you're slipping down that slope, to get a grip anywhere without anybody else's help.

"When you're in that, your aim is just to survive."

With the help of HOST, Alex is now off the streets, and in recovery. He has reconnected with his children and sees them on a regular basis, and is hoping to get back into deejaying - without the alcohol and drugs. 

He is now joining HOST in urging people to reach out to street sleepers: "They are a human being, they are vulnerable, they are desperate.

"Even if it is just to say, hi, are you alright, or, can I get you a cup of tea, or just acknowledging them - even a nod and a smile - that will warm up that person."


Ketan Patel, Riverside Care and Support Area Manager for Guildford, said: "Sleeping on the streets can cause all sorts of health issues especially during winter such as pneumonia and hyperthermia.

"So we are appealing to people in Guildford to get in touch with us in severe weather so we can help rough sleepers on the streets and find them a warm place for the night.

"There are many reasons why people become homeless and get entrenched in to sleeping rough. While every effort is made to ensure that no-one rough sleeps during severe weather people do sometimes choose not to accept our offer of accommodation and choose to sleep rough.

"However we do have an active team of support workers who work hard to try and break that cycle by going out all year round, speaking to vulnerable rough sleepers, and over time, slowly building up a relationship of trust to support them off the streets and in to accommodation.

"Emergency accommodation is accessible to anyone, including people who aren't eligible for services and not receiving benefit."If you know of anyone who is sleeping rough, you can contact HOST at 01483 302495 or email GuildfordHost@riverside.org.uk." 

Alternatively you can also contact Streetlink, the national rough sleeper reporting line on 0300 500 0914, ior download the app. 

You can help change a rough sleeper's life today by donating to the HOST campaign to end rough sleeping.