Big freeze tests homeless charity

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Whitechapel Centre

Whitechapel Centre

Recent bad weather has seen Liverpool shiver under a blanket of snow – but while this was an inconvenience for many, it was life-threatening for those forced to sleep rough on the city’s streets.

With more and more people losing their jobs and homes, sleeping rough is an increasing problem in the North West.

The Whitechapel Centre is a leading homeless and housing charity that works with people 16 and over who are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless or need support.

They have a programme called Outreach which sees members of staff and volunteers go out onto the streets from 6am, trying to find rough sleepers to offer them a warm place and support.

Last year they helped more than 1,800 people across Merseyside.

Fundraising manager Ruth McCaughley said: “If a person is new to sleeping rough, we can offer a solution within 24 hours.”

Last week they helped 24 people find somewhere to sleep as temperatures fell below freezing, and also helped around 335 people with housing support.

With two-thirds of the people they help aged 20-44, mainly young men, Whitechapel fulfills an important role.

Peter O’Shea, 61, has been a member of staff for 12 years.

He said: “We can’t cure every thing overnight, but I think we cover everything in terms of the basics for people.

“Don’t judge, give the people respect and start there.”

The Whitechapel Centre offers breakfast from 8am and then run activities throughout the day, as well as having a GP on site once a week.

They have an on-site washing machines aswell as showers, and computers to help people take small steps into getting back into the community.

Their services such as ‘the Hub’ also ensures that no one has a second night on the street.

Whitechapel centre where homeless can come and find shelter from the cold

Whitechapel centre where homeless people can come and find shelter from the cold

Ruth said: “One person who needed our services has now got a place of their own and a full-time job.”

Next week is Homelessness and Poverty Awareness Week.

Whitechapel is funded by Liverpool City Council, but all donations are valuable as cutbacks mean that the centre could lose its funding.

Whitechapel is part of the ‘No Second Night Out’ campaign. If you see someone sleeping rough, call 0300 123 2041, for more information visit www.whitechapel.co.uk

About Olivia Swayne-Atherton, JMU Journalism