Spending a night under the stars may seem like a good idea during the summer, but a group of community workers got a glimpse of the grim reality of homelessness at a special event in St Austell recently.
Officers from the Safer St Austell team spent the night at White River Place protected only by sleeping bags and cardboard.
The event was organised to highlight the issue of homelessness, as well as to help promote the local support services available and to demonstrate how well individuals are supported within St Austell.
The group, which included representatives from Addaction, Cosgarne Hall, SAHA Freshstart, Cornwall Council’s Community Safety, Localism and Anti-Social Behaviour Team, Mayor Gary King, Tim Styles and Cornwall Councillor James Mustoe slept out between 10pm and 6am, enduring a long damp night.
Helen Catherall, Addaction worker, said: “Homelessness is a sign. It tells us that there has been a crisis or that there is an underlying issue. Ironically, homelessness is barrier to accessing support when it’s needed the most. This is why it is so important to report rough sleeping to Streetlink either via their online reporting system or by telephoning Streetlink on 0300 500 0914 to ensure support is offered.”
Gareth Bray, Chairman of Cosgarne Hall Board of Trustees, said: “St Austell has a long history supporting those who are homeless going back to the 1800s and we are pleased to be involved with the sleep out to continue to raise awareness around support services. We want to highlight that although we are raising awareness through this event those who have attended had a choice to sleep out whereas those who are homeless do not have this choice.”
Sue James, Cornwall Council’s portfolio holder for environment and public protection, said: “Homelessness is an issue we are determined to tackle, and events such as this help raise awareness of the problem.
“It is vital we do all we can to encourage people to contact Streetlink if you see anyone sleeping on the streets. The sooner we are informed, the quicker we can offer the support that these vulnerable people need.”
Advice for residents and businesses
- If you see someone sleeping rough you can contact Streetlink via www.streetlink.org.uk or 0300 500 0914 (or 999 if they need urgent medical assistance). Individuals sleeping rough can contact the Cornwall Housing Options Team on 0300 1234 161 or drop into an Information Service (formerly called One Stop Shop).