A record number of homeless people has been flagged up to the authorities by members of the public this week as freezing temperatures blight the country.
In just 24 hours, more than 3,600 alerts were made to StreetLink, a service which allows users to connect people sleeping rough with local services.
The website, mobile app and phone line, run by charity Homeless Link, typically sees use peak during periods of extreme weather but on Monday and Tuesday it recorded the highest number of alerts since its launch in December 2012.
Of the 3,600 alerts received, 2,032 were sent about people sleeping on the streets of London.
As the weather phenomenon dubbed the “Beast from the East” swept into the UK, more than 13,600 members of the public signed up to the StreetLink Community, both as users and supporters of the service.
Last month Government figures revealed the number of homeless people in England had reached a record high, surging by 73 per cent in three years.
On any given night last autumn, 4,751 people were recorded sleeping on the streets, a figure that has more than doubled since 2010.
Campaigners described the rise as a “catastrophe” and called on ministers to take “swift action” to tackle the problem.
The Government admitted earlier this week that a taskforce set up last year to tackle homelessness yet to hold a single meeting.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of charity Crisis, said it was encouraging to see the public showing such compassion for people sleeping rough.
But he said “action is needed urgently and can’t come a moment too soon” to prevent people being forced to sleep out in “potentially deadly” situations.
“No one should ever have to sleep rough whatever time of year it is,” he said.
Matt Harrison, director of StreetLink, said with the onset of freezing weather conditions the public were “overwhelmingly” taking action by using the service to alert local services when they see someone sleeping out.
“This record number of referrals is inspiring to see, and is the first step people can take to ensure individuals sleeping rough receive the support they need to get into the warm and move away from homelessness for good,” he added.
StreetLink is asking people to download the app onto their phones and send an alert when they are concerned about someone sleeping rough.
It is also urging people to tell their friends and colleagues about the service so that more rough sleepers can receive support over the rest of the winter.
“The local outreach teams are working incredibly hard, however, with the huge volumes of referrals coming through, we hope the public will understand that it may take slightly longer than usual to feedback to them on the outcome of their referral,” Mr Harrison said.
To find out more about StreetLink and how to use the service to help rough sleepers visit streetlink.org.uk.
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