Warm-hearted Britons brave cold weather to help homeless
The freezing weather brought a wave of goodwill this week, as warm-hearted Britons across the country braved the snow and ice to help homeless people in their area.
Naseem Talukdar, 38, runs a homeless charity in Bristol, giving people food, warm clothes and assistance finding a bed for the night.
He said his team delivered 20 pizzas and 60 chicken biryanis to rough sleepers around the city on Thursday night, and is ready to go out again with more than 150 home-cooked meals on Friday.
"As normal people of the country we need to contribute to this issue," he said.
"We can't just rely on the Government to do that. We need to take part and have responsibility and show that we can all come together."
StreetLink, which allows members to alert local authorities to rough sleepers in their area, said it recorded more than 3,600 alerts in just 24 hours this week, the highest number it had received since 2012.
As temperatures have fallen below zero, measures are in place enabling services to access extra emergency shelter for those sleeping on the streets.
However, some rough sleepers reported to the Press Association they have been told there is not enough space available to them, while others may opt not to take up the offer for a number of reasons such as crowded spaces or bad previous experiences.
"The conditions are horrendous for the people out in this weather," said Dawn French, a carer from Wigan who has been helping homeless people in her area since 2016 with friend Lana Nocker, also a carer.
"It's horrendous and people are slipping through the net," she said.
As well as delivering food and warm clothes to people on the streets, the pair have set up a foster service to look after the pets of homeless people who can not take them into hostels overnight.
"If you've got a real passion to do it then do it," she said of the desire to help rough sleepers. "But it is difficult and takes training, and it's important to always work with your local council and other local services so everyone knows what everyone is doing to protect yourself."
Meanwhile, 15-year-old Chloe Limerick is spending Friday collecting food and blankets from her neighbours in Gosport to deliver to homeless shelters in the evening.
"Last night while watching the news Chloe started to cry when she saw that homeless people were having to sleep rough in this weather," said Chloe's mother Lisa, 33, a primary school worker in the south coast town.
"She saw that people were opening up centres and asked me if she could help. As she's only 15 we thought it would be safer to collect things for the homeless instead."
Chloe plans to do it all again tomorrow, she said.
And Sunny-Thomas Obasuyi, a project manager at a housing charity, experienced what it was like to sleep rough as part of a "sleep out" at London's Spitalfields Market, raising more than £1,000 for homelessness charity LandAid in the process.
"I didn't really know what to feel as I've never slept outdoors before, never camped," he said of the night spent at Spitalfields Market in London, where temperatures reached minus 3C at its coldest.
"But it felt a bit like cheating under the sheltered market," he added. "To imagine we were actually outside... I don't know how any of us would have coped."
Official government data released in January showed that the number of rough sleepers had doubled since 2010, with 4,751 people recorded sleeping on the streets on any given night in autumn 2017.
National homeless charity St Mungo's works with local services across the country to make sure homeless people can have a bed for the night.
Its top recommendation for anyone wanting to help homeless people in their local area is to get in touch via the StreetLink service, so local outreach workers can decide how extra assistance can be most effective.