The homeless centre on Monks Road, Lincoln, run by the Nomad Trust, has seen an increase in demand for its services as temperatures plummeted below freezing.
The Trust can normally house and feed up to 20 people per night, but the homeless shelter had to adopt a different set of rules in recent weeks, explained Brenda Shiels, the deputy manager of the Lincoln establishment:
“If the temperature reaches 0℃ including the wind chill, then we won’t turn anyone away from the night shelter. The only people who wouldn’t be allowed entry are either those who are permanently barred, and even then it depends what they are like, or if they fail risk assessment at the door.”
But housing over the 20 people capacity of the shelter per night creates another problem for the staff and volunteers at the centre: they need to have more than one person after midnight in case of emergencies.
“The cold has caused an extra problem though,” Shiels explains. “The Eastern European homeless, who usually make camp down by the river, now need the service.
“Everyone who normally would use the service is in the centre by 7pm, so it was the case that if there were any spare beds at that time, then the Eastern Europeans can use them for free as we won’t be getting anything for them while they’re empty.”
But with the centre now at full capacity, the Eastern European homeless who aren’t claiming housing benefit, or who aren’t eligible for the centre, are at a loose end.
To deal with the extra demand, a soup kitchen was opened at St Mary Le Wigford church on St Mary’s Street, which is used more recently in the extreme conditions as a shelter for the Eastern Europeans to stay in while the cold weather continues.
Shiels urged people to help the volunteers at St Mary Le Wigford, who are likely to be overstretched over the festive period: “The cold looks like it’s going to continue; while it does, our staff should be able to manage. However at St Mary Le Wigford it is all volunteer and they need all the help they can get down there to continue what in these conditions is a vital service.”