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Action on Homelessness: 'Homeless left in the streets to die in the cold in Folkestone'

By Sean Axtell

Homeless people are “being left in the streets to die in the cold” as temperatures plummet, a campaign group has claimed.

Shepway District Council (SDC) came under fire for not helping displaced people out of harsh weather conditions, amid fears they will catch hypothermia.

It comes as temperatures dipped below freezing on Thursday night.

Pam Jones
Pam Jones

Pam Jones, from Action on Homelessness in Folkestone, said she has been too worried to sleep and believed somebody would die before the council intervenes.

Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when a person loses heat faster than they can produce it. This typically occurs as body temperature falls below 95F.

Ms Jones said: “I’ve got a nasty chest infection and I can stay in the warm, what happens when someone out in the cold becomes ill?

“I’m concerned someone is going to die before the council reviews its policy.

“It has been bitterly cold, other councils like Canterbury are providing emergency help why can’t our council?”

SDC’s official line is that it provides emergency accommodation when forecast temperatures drop below freezing for three consecutive days.

Canterbury City Council (CCC) runs a similar scheme but activates the protocol “when exceptionally cold or inclement weather is forecast that falls short of this definition.”

CCC activated its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol on Thursday night, while Shepway did not.

Courtesy Folkestone Rainbow Centre
Courtesy Folkestone Rainbow Centre

Ex-security worker Dom Morton says he has been homeless in Folkestone for seven months following a dispute with a landlord.

“The shelters are very useful because I would go days without food or drink or even a wash.

“A lot of people in the homeless community believe someone will die if the council doesn’t intervene.

“I am in the Winter Shelter, the beds are taken and 23 are on the waiting list,” he said.

Others took to Facebook to call on the authority to review its policy, with many users reportedly flagging concerns over inclement weather via SDC’s emergency telephone line.

They claimed their concerns were ignored and fear charities will have to pick up the pieces.

Jon Wilson, who runs homeless charity the Rainbow Centre, said it has provided 338 beds at the Winter Shelter venues in four weeks and found ongoing housing provision for four guests.

He added: “We expect to provide shelter and food for a further eight weeks, however, our experience in this matter means that we know that, for some, shelter accommodation is not an option – and there are many reasons why this might be the case.”

Cllr Alan Ewart-James
Cllr Alan Ewart-James

A council chief has responded after Shepway was asked why the authority won’t intervene if the temperature dips below zero for one day, rather than three consecutive days.

Cllr Alan Ewart-James, cabinet member for housing, said: “Our policy for activating the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol is very clear and posted on our website.

“We monitor the Met Office forecast for Folkestone on a daily basis and if the temperature is predicted to be zero degrees or below for three consecutive nights we will provide emergency accommodation to any person sleeping rough in the district.

“We activated SWEP earlier in December when this was the case, however, the forecast over the last few and forthcoming days do not meet the criteria.

“The Churches Winter Shelter which we help fund is open across the Christmas and New Year period and other services we fund are also out and about helping people who are sleeping rough all year round.”

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