Homeless volunteers say Wellingborough Council could be doing more

Volunteers who help the town's rough sleepers would like the council to do more.
Volunteers who help the town's rough sleepers would like the council to do more.

Volunteers helping Wellingborough’s rough sleepers have criticised the borough council, saying it is not doing enough.

The council was the last in the north of the county to provide emergency shelter to its rough sleepers which is did for the first time on Tuesday night.

The authority’s policy is not to bring in its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol until the Met office forecasts predict three days of zero temperatures.

The authority says its SWEP will run until January 29 and so far 12 rough sleepers have been helped by the council with emergency accommodation.

But volunteers who work with the town’s rough sleeping community say that the council could be doing much more.

Wendy Steele, who is a volunteer at the town’s roving night shelter which runs from Wellingborough church halls five nights a week, said: “There are a lot of volunteers working very hard and it would be nice to have the council on board with what we are doing. The council’s protocol is too rigid and it does not join up with other organisations.”

She said she has accompanied rough sleepers along to the council offices for help and felt they had not been warmly received.

Michelle Parkinson, who set up Rushden-based Reach Out Together four years ago, carries out night-time patrols to check on the homeless in Wellingborough and Rushden, says the authority could be doing much more.

She said: “They just need to look and acknowledge that they have a problem.

“They just want to keep the numbers quiet. They are not working to do anything to initiate to help.

“They need to look again at their protocols and they need to initiate SWEP as soon as December comes in.”

The charity founder, who runs an annual Christmas dinner for the homeless in Rushden and Wellingborough, said in the past she and her volunteers had been prevented from handing out food on the streets to hungry homeless people.

Responding to the complaint the authority has said it works with organisations in the town and its SWEP is in line with other councils and follows government guidelines. It said anyone who handed out food on an occasional basis is unlikely to need to register with the authority but must ensure the food is safe.

A spokesman said: “BCW has a number of contracts with voluntary sector organisations which provide support for vulnerable residents. Three people, which are classed as street homeless, have accessed BCW’s homeless prevention funds, to a total of £830 since October 2018 which has provided them with support for accommodation.

“To continue to help meet the needs of people who find themselves homeless the council has put in a number of expression of interests and bids to government to enable the council with partner agencies to find accommodation for rough sleepers and provide support and guidance to prevent residents from ending up back on the street.”

Council leader Martin Griffiths said he would now be asking officers to put together a report about the SWEP arrangements and would be reviewing procedures.

A permanent night shelter, run by volunteers, is due to open in the grounds of Wellingborough School soon.