Emergency services and SLDC join forces in search for homeless people (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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Emergency services and SLDC join forces in search for homeless people
4:17pm Friday 8th March 2013 in News
EMERGENCY service personnel and council officials spent a night searching for homeless people in Kendal in what is believed to be the first exercise of its kind in the UK.
South Lakeland District Council teamed up with Cumbria Police, Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service and the North West Ambulance Service to identify any rough sleepers and offer them help.
One homeless person was found during the exercise, in which thermal imaging equipment was used to scan areas including behind Morrisons and ASDA, Kendal Rugby Club, Serpentine Wood and other industrial and retail areas.
They were given an information pack outlining the help available to them and how to go about accessing accommodation.
Organiser Charlie Anderson, SLDC’s principal housing solutions officer, said: “Finding just one person sleeping rough was considered a real success, though finding even one person living rough in the area is one person too many.
“We will be able to accommodate anyone sleeping rough if only they approach us. As a team we work hard to provide accommodation for those who are either homeless or face losing their homes.”
SLDC deputy leader Clare Feeney-Johnson, who was part of the search team, added: “It was a bitterly cold night and it gave you an idea of how hard it must be if you end up on the streets.
“We were all lucky because we could go home after the search but there are people who face this night after night.
“SLDC believes the search is the first of its kind in the UK to join up with emergency services and use specialist thermal imaging equipment to find and help those most in need. Luckily we only found one person who we were able to offer help.”
Inspector Paul Latham, of Cumbria Police, said: “It is important that we look to help those who are homeless and by becoming involved in initiatives like these we are not only helping the individuals but also the overall community.
“This event was an excellent example of working closely with our partner agencies to help tackle the issue of homelessness in the area.”
And Steve Healey, locality manager at Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service are keen to work in partnership to help vulnerable people and once we were approached to see if we could help, we were keen to get involved.
“We were able to use our thermal imaging cameras and high powered torches to help to survey some identified hot spot areas where it is known people have been rough sleeping in the past.
“While this activity may appear far removed from our day to day operational fire-fighting role, we are keen to work closely with other organisations to deliver better value to our communities and were able to offer up a few staff and our high quality equipment on the evening.”
SLDC said it expected the searches to be extended to other parts of South Lakeland.
The initiative forms part of the nationwide No Second Night Out scheme, which aims to prevent and tackle rough sleeping.
Funding has been provided to the whole of Cumbria with SLDC chosen as the accountable body on behalf of all six local authorities in the county.
A county wide steering group has been set up to plan how the grant will be used in the best way to ensure single homelessness across Cumbria is addressed.
If you think you know of someone sleeping rough please contact the Streetlink Homeless reporting line on 0300 500 0914 or at www.streetlink.org.uk