Homeless sheltered as temperatures plunge
Town hall bosses have triggered plans to provide emergency shelter for homeless people after the borough plunged into freezing temperatures.
Wigan Council announced it had activated its cold weather provision to give rough sleepers accommodation, after bone-chilling conditions marked the coldest end to February in years.
While there is no legal requirement for authorities to provide shelter for homeless people - even in harsh weather - officials have acted quickly to help those most in need.
A statement on the council website reads: “When temperatures drop, those who are homeless and sleeping rough are at risk of serious illness or death.
“To prevent this happening, Wigan Council in partnership with Riverside ECHG Supported Housing and The Brick, arrange cold weather accommodation.”
The system kicks in when temperatures drop below freezing; this week the mercury dropped as low as -5c, with heavy snowfall also blanketing the borough on Tuesday.
Further cold weather and lows of -8c are also forecast to hit Wigan in the coming days, as freezing air from Russia grips the UK.
The cold blast - dubbed the ‘Beast from the East’ - has been so severe that some of the country’s most senior health officials urged people to keep tabs on vulnerable neighbours who would be most affected by the Arctic temperatures.
Over-65s, those with conditions like heart and lung diseases and young children are all at particular risk in cold weather as their bodies struggle to cope when temperatures fall.
As well as the cold weather provision, the council is signed up to “No Second Night Out,” a Greater Manchester-wide initiative which aims to prevent anyone who finds themselves in difficulty from sleeping on the streets for more than a single night.
Staff at both Wigan Council and The Brick - the borough’s homelessness project - are able to refer anyone facing more than one night on the streets to Riverside ECHG Housing.
Emergency shelters have also began to crop up across the country this week to provide respite from the brutal conditions.
In December 2017, council leaders issued new guidance to the public on how to help curb the rising number of rough sleepers in the borough, by reporting any incidences of homelessness they spotted to the town hall.
The plea came just weeks after homeless man Chris Conlin died in the street in Leigh town centre.
Chris died on his 31st birthday after collapsing in an alleyway in cold November conditions. Despite valiant efforts to revive him from members of the public and paramedics, he died after being rushed to hospital.
It later emerged that he been discharged from hospital just days earlier, after reportedly suffering from pneumonia.
The heartbreaking event triggered an outpouring of public support for the borough’s homeless, with waves of donations being made to charities and support projects.
Residents aware of anyone sleeping rough during cold and icy conditions are asked to contact the council on 01942 489005 or by email to [email protected]