CHURCHES will open their doors to the homeless overnight this winter in a bid to help the rising number of people sleeping on the streets of Portsmouth.
The scheme is part of a church-led initiative to combat homelessness in the city with the council and charities and organisations who support rough sleepers.
During a Churches Homeless Action meeting at St Mary’s Church in Fratton, the Rev Canon Bob White said: ‘We need to understand the issues and we need to have a short-term response and a long-term response.’
Curate at St Jude’s Church in Southsea, Adam Denley explained further about the church’s bed scheme.
He said: ‘This year is a pilot scheme with 10 beds a night in different churches. They will receive a hot meal and it means we can start to build relationships with them.’
The city council’s housing options manager Elaine Bastable said: ‘There are many issues which contribute to homelessness including mental health, shortage of social housing and lack of affordable housing in the private sector.
‘Lack of communication between agencies means there is a duplication of support services so we need a multi-agency approach because it is not an issue one agency can solve.’
The council has a number of plans to combat the problem including employing a rough sleeper co-ordinator and a homeless working group to try and understand the issues.
Elaine said: ‘One of the reasons for increase in numbers is people who are being generous in the wrong way and feeding people on the streets.’
Lesley Wenden from the LifeHouse Food Kitchen in Southsea said: ‘The people who do this have very generous hearts but it is not really helping the situation. All their needs are being given to them in situ.
‘We have had people from Basingstoke, Brighton and Andover coming into Portsmouth because they can get everything they want.’
Chief executive of the Roberts Centre Carole Damper said: ‘These are very difficult times and the meeting was to highlight the complex issues of the homeless, our concerns for the future and what it is that we can do to help.
‘By and large we all have the same aim and by working together we can achieve what we want to.’