Good news as emergency beds provide refuge for rough sleepers this winter

Extra bed spaces have been made available for rough sleepers in Exeter over the winter period, the City Council has announced.

The 15 extra emergency beds will be provided at Gabriel House in the city centre as part the City Council’s response to providing emergency accommodation and bringing rough sleepers inside during the harshest winter weather.

Bournemouth Churches Housing Association (BCHA), who run Gabriel House, will be running the service from 1 December through to the end of March. This year the initiative has been extended by an extra month.

Cllr Emma Morse, Lead Councillor for People, said: “I’m delighted that we can offer up this service once again this year.”

Last year, operator Julian House used a vacant shop unit in Market Street for a 40-bed night shelter. Although it proved popular, the shelter was never at full capacity. Unfortunately, the unit wasn’t available this year as it is currently being used by Bike Bank, a social enterprise that trains adults to refurbish unwanted bikes.

“We would have liked to have been able to offer a similar sized shelter but we were not able to find a suitable stand-alone site,” added Cllr Morse.

“Nevertheless, the emergency bunks will ensure the most vulnerable rough sleepers have access to accommodation during the coldest months of the year and I am extremely grateful to BCHA for their support with this initiative.”

This year, users will be accommodated in bunk beds in rooms of two, rather than rooms of 20 last year.

Nicola Greenfield, of BCHA, said: “For people experiencing homelessness, sleeping rough, at any time is extremely difficult but even more so when the temperatures fall. For that reason, we are more than happy to be involved with this initiative.”

If temperatures dip below zero for three consecutive days, the City Council activates its Severe Weather Protocol and will work with its partners to ensure that there are additional bed spaces beyond the 15 being provided at Gabriel House.