'I fear being on the streets' - homeless people in Bristol 'frightened' as support due to end

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Bristol's homeless charities are pleading for the public to support them in keeping dozens of people off the streets when the Government's emergency coronavirus support ends.

Damian, 30, is one of more than 50 people in the city reportedly at risk of homelessness when the Government stops financially helping local authorities provide shelter for rough sleepers during the pandemic.

"I think about it being winter, out in the cold and lying outside. I walk past people sleeping and I think, that could be me," Damian told ITV West Country.

"I fear being on the streets because I've never been in such a situation. It's frightening. It's very frightening. I don't know how people are used to it, because I can't get my head around it."

According to Bristol City Council, more than 1,400 people have been moved into emergency accommodation as a result of measures introduced during the pandemic.

The authority said it is committed to making sure as many people as possible do not return to the streets, such as offering rooms in a new form of temporary accommodation.

Damian, 30, wanted to be kept anonymous - but fears being made homeless in a few weeks time.

Caring in Bristol, one of the city's homeless charities, believes more than 50 people are at imminent risk of homelessness once the Government support ends on 17 May.

According to the charity, those who are still staying in hotels face being pushed out onto the streets unless local charities get donations to help to pay for their stays.

These include sanctuary seekers and EEA nationals - many of whom don't have any access to welfare benefits or social housing.

Places such as The Julian Trust Night Shelter would usually provide a lifeline for many individuals, the charities say, but they remain closed due to coronavirus restrictions and guidance from Public Health England.

Fortunately the Julian Trust has been able to use some of its funds to pay for temporary accommodation for nine of the 'at risk' individuals who would have potentially been on the streets from mid-May.

This leaves more than 50 people, like Damian, "frightened" of what their futures look like in a few weeks' time.

"It has been fabulous," Damian said, on having a roof over his head during the pandemic.

"The best opportunity I could have had."

Now some of Bristol's most prominent charities and organisations are asking the public and local businesses to donate and help them support those at risk.

Ben Richardson, Caring in Bristol director, said: "As a local charity we are proud of the huge community effort we have made together during Covid to house and support people irrespective of their immigration status or right and ability to work.

"Unfortunately, we are now facing the devastating prospect of some of these people being pushed back onto the streets. This will see all of that good work undone, with serious and potentially life-threatening implications for some very vulnerable people in our city.

"The Government can choose not to do this. They must take into account the emergency public health restrictions we face together, and act immediately to fund and safeguard the support cities like Bristol can offer."

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