18th Dec, 2017

Couple in 60s who were forced to sleep in car say more needs to be done for homeless

A COUPLE in their 60s who spent last winter sleeping in their car say more needs to be done to support the district’s homeless as temperatures plummet.

Lesley Jones and Steven Bramble could no longer afford to pay their rent after Steven suffered a back injury which forced him to give up work, and Lesley lost her job.

The pair soon found themselves homeless and were forced to sleep in their car for six months.

They have since managed to get a flat in Kenilworth, but say more needs to be done by Warwick District Council (WDC) to support those sleeping rough.

Councillors were last night (Wednesday) set to approve plans to offer homeless people an immediate temporary bed when the temperature dropped below freezing, and when the district’s two voluntary run night shelters, which operate four nights a week, were closed.

Previously those sleeping rough had to endure three consecutive nights of freezing temperatures before being offered a roof over their head.

But Lesley wants more done.

She said: “We were homeless and living out of our car, at almost 60-years-old and not in the best of health. The council would not help us and Helping Hands and Way Ahead were our saviours at that time.

“Why should homeless people have to wait until the temperature drops? If the council can offer them a bed then, why not do it now? It makes my blood boil.”

WDC says it is working on tackling homelessness after it was revealed the number of rough sleepers had almost doubled in the past five years to around 20.

But there were also some 200 people who are classed as homeless and regularly have to turn to hostels or a friend with a sofa.

Labour district councillor Kristie Naimo had pushed for the proposed change in the council’s Severe Weather Policy, and also welcomed news the council was looking at improving its services for homeless people by working with local night shelters.

She said: “We are pleased to see that at last Warwick District Council is listening and even more pleased that they will be reviewing the service that is out there in terms of the voluntary night shelter provision with a view to improving it and encouraging more collaborative working.

“We know people in Warwick district care about homelessness – we have several night shelters as well as organisations who offer homelessness support in Leamington.”

The three-night Severe Weather Policy is already followed by neighbouring Rugby and Stratford councils, while Coventry offers homeless people a bed throughout the whole of winter regardless of temperature.

A WDC spokesman said: “The council currently operates a protocol providing overnight accommodation for those sleeping rough when the temperature is predicted to fall below zero for three successive nights.

“The executive will consider changing this so accommodation would be offered for every night when the local night shelters are closed once the temperature is predicted to drop to zero or below.”

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