Homeless woman in Exeter says freezing conditions make it hard to survive

  • Watch Claire Manning's report here.

A woman sleeping on the streets of Exeter has opened up about how hard it is to survive in freezing conditions.

There is currently an amber health alert for cold across the region with night temperatures falling below zero. 

Despite this there were still almost a dozen people sleeping on the streets of Exeter on Monday 8 January night. 

Becca was one of them - trying to sleep in a doorway on a night where temperatures dropped to -2 degrees. 

She said: "It's not just been overnight it's been the last four nights, it has been absolutely baltic I cannot explain how cold it has been. I don't know how I have managed to get through.”

St Petrock’s is one of the charities working to help people on the streets in these conditions. 

Becca said: “I think if it wasn't for St Petrock’s being able to give me a shower this morning then I don't think I would have survived.

“You can't sleep, it's not rough sleeping really you just don't sleep.

Volunteers are out to help people sleeping on the streets. Credit: ITV News

"I am struggling to keep warm at night, if it wasn't for the public bringing me hot drinks at night and in the morning I don't think I would have survived. 

“It gets to four o'clock in the afternoon and I still haven't warmed up from the night before, that cold I don't know if I am ever going to survive."

Part of the work St Petrock’s volunteers do is carrying out welfare checks on people on the streets.  

Volunteer Tony Macguire said trying to cope with the adversity of this cold can induce underlying psychological problems for some people. 

He said: "Other things they may not be addressing in their lives come forward, they are dealing with a difficult, physical situation that can have an impact on the emotional situation and the combination can be quite dangerous for the individual and the people around them.

With a drop in temperature, Exeter City council has activated its Severe Weather Emergency protocol. Credit: ITV News

“We try and keep them calm and try and give them some hope where possible and also try and keep them warm, try and help them through this cold spell because that’s the real danger getting through the next few days and nights."

With the drop in temperature, Exeter City Council has activated its Severe Weather Emergency protocol - meaning they're providing 15 extra beds for anyone sleeping out in the cold. 

Councillor Martin Pearce said: “Ordinarily the council only has a duty to house and support and look after people with a local connection to Exeter but as it is severe weather protocol we are going to help anybody who is out there who needs it. 

“So I would urge people if you see someone on the street tonight, go onto street link, homeless link, get that reported so the outreach teams can go and deal with them and try and offer them the support that they may need to get them into some kind of accommodation, somewhere warm tonight."

So far this winter, the weather's been relatively mild but with temperatures predicted to drop - for those like Becca - the end of winter cannot come soon enough.