Homelessness is on the rise but what support is on offer and how are the vulnerable being protected

  • ITV Meridian's Joe Coshan has been out with outreach workers as they attempt to protect those experiencing homelessness.

As temperatures remain below freezing, and a cold weather warning remains in place - there are fears for a rising number of homeless people - and whether than can survive the nights.

Work has been taking place this week to protect those on the streets, by offering emergency shelters - available from local councils.

"If you're experiencing rough sleeping and you are sleeping out in zero or below temperatures, your life is at risk," said Ellie Away-Thomas of St Mungo's.

"That's why we need to go out, and we need to make offers to people and try and secure them accommodation. Not just for now, but longer-term accommodation.

"The demand is growing and we know that rough sleepers are on the rise, but we don't always have the offer right there and then for people, so it's not that people don't want it, we just need to take the time to find it and make sure there's enough for everybody."

Ellie Away-Thomas of St Mungo's outreach team attends to rough sleepers in Oxford city centre. Credit: ITV Meridian

Some rough sleepers who are picked up by outreach teams are taken to private bed and breakfasts that have been turned into winter shelters for the next few months.

People like Stuart Palmer was supported outreach workers at the Kent-based Rainbow Centre.

His life changed overnight. Not only did he have to cope with the loss of his partner, he soon lost his home too.

  • Derek Newman was also supported by the centre.

Registering to a GP practice can prove problematic though for those people without an address.

And people with no permanent home can often have complex needs and require specialist support.

Arch Healthcare has run a specialist homeless surgery in Brighton and Hove since 1998. It was set up in response to rising numbers of people experiencing homelessness in the city.

It now supports more than 1000 patients at different stages of homelessness.

Dr Chris Sargeant, Director at Arch Healthcare said: "Arch Health CIC was founded because we believe that no- one should be denied the highest standards of healthcare, whatever their circumstances.”

  • Gary Bishop, Chief Executive at Arch Healthcare says increasing demand means they can't always treat every patient that comes through the door.

Gary Bishop, Chief Executive at Arch Healthcare says they often end up having to turn patients away because demand is now so high.

"It's really hard for the team, every day on the phones, and people coming in.

"They have to go away and try and come back tomorrow, but the space is what the space is. And the workforce is the workforce. The resources we have are limited.

"But we do everything we can to keep people safe and healthy over the winter."

According to homelessness charity St Mungo's rough sleeping is the most visible form of homelessness.

It is so damaging that men who sleep rough can expect to live to 45, but for a woman, it is just 41.

For advice and support on homelessness you can contact the following organisations

Shelter 0808 800 4444

Crisis 01865 263900

Porchlight 0800 567 7699

Two Saints 01329 234600

Knight Support Street Link 0300 500 0914