Winter is a time when Glasgow’s city centre statutory and voluntary homeless services come together to prepare for the increased risks that we know people on the streets will face. Every year there is an integrated, well planned multi agency response to both cold and heat events involving key organisations including; City Centre Police, Help Homeless Glasgow, City Mission, Lodging House Mission, Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership, The Marie Trust, NHS Health, Glasgow City Council, Phoenix Pharmacy and Simon Community Scotland.
We all come together to coordinate care with dignity for people experiencing the most challenges and vulnerabilities. We do that by sharing what we know about risks people face in our community, we direct resources to those most at risk, provide accommodation and-when that is not available- thermal protection. Glasgow is lucky to have key partners like the Halliday Foundation and Invisibles who play a key role in getting help to where it is most needed.
This crucial partnership also works with retailers, businesses and other outreach teams. It ensures that Glasgow’s winter response has been able to keep people safe and enable them to access accommodation and professional support services, even when tested by the Beast from the East.
Three years ago we launched our Stay Safe, Stay Warm campaign to help everyone in Glasgow know the signs of hypothermia and how to help. The skilled staff in this partnership are trained to respond to hypothermia. In addition to overdose treatment the street team also carries life saving winter issue equipment.
As our colleagues in Scottish Mountain Rescue tell us,the most effective solution to hypothermia is ‘we get them off the mountain’. Our most effective solution to hypothermia is to get people off the streets.
Throughout last year Glasgow had less than 10 people sleeping rough on the streets, often as low as 4 at any one time with the street team and partners actively working to prevent 30 people a week from having to sleep outdoors. That is still 4 too many and we are working hard to find the right solution to each and every one of them. However there is no European City that has achieved such low numbers.
We recognise that photographs of large numbers of people attending food banks in Glasgow would suggest the streets are full of people sleeping on the streets. We also support over 60 people on the streets who beg, however not all people who beg are roofless and not all people who are roofless beg.
The reality is there is a coordinated city wide response that operates all year round ensuring that everything that can be done is being done. The result is that we have almost eradicated rough sleeping in Glasgow and we have the staff, volunteers, resources and intelligence to respond to people at risk, quickly, quietly and with dignity.
The ISN (Inter Agency Support Network) met at our Glasgow Hub this morning and will continue to meet regularly to work in partnership to help people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness.