The news of a homeless man freezing to death on the streets of England ‘should not come as a surprise,’ according to the CEO of one Yorkshire homeless charity, with ‘funding’ and ‘cuts to vital services’ to blame.
Osman Gondal, who heads up the InTouch Foundation – which feeds the homeless in Leeds, Bradford and Keighley via a mobile soup kitchen – described the news as tragic and one which cannot be repeated.
The lifeless body of the unknown man was found at the entrance of a city centre car park in Birmingham on Wednesday 30th November – the coldest night of the year where the UK saw temperatures as low as -9.7C.
With the number of people being forced to sleep rough, in hostels or in temporary accommodation in England rising to figures above 250,000, Osman adds that now is the time to act.
He said: “At this time of year, it’s important for the community to come together to try and support the homeless.
“The number of people sleeping rough in the winter months always increases and rough sleepers tend to have particular ‘spots’ where they like to bed down for the night because they’re undercover and warmer than other places.
“We find that our service users come and collect the food, eat it very quickly and then disappear to go and pre-book these spots.
“Within that community, they are aware of where those best spots are and if they miss out, they are pretty much sleeping out in the open.”
He added: “Hearing about the man who died in Birmingham is extremely unfortunate but it doesn’t surprise me because of the number of services that have been cut over the past couple of years. That will inevitably will have an impact on people sleeping on the streets. It’s not surprising.”
With budget cuts effecting more and more people throughout the country, Osman says there are little things everybody can do to help the crisis.
“If members of the public do spot rough sleepers out and about, then my advice is to buy them a cup of tea or coffee to help keep them going, and some food as well,” he said.
“I wouldn’t recommend going out in the evening looking for them, but during the day, people could buy them a sandwich and get them a tea and that will hopefully will stop these incidents from happening.”
West Midlands Police confirmed the unnamed man who died in the cold was 30-years-old and did not have a fixed address.
They said that despite the freezing temperatures, the man’s death was also connected to drugs.