Four Bristol Green Party Councillors are preparing to spend a night sleeping rough in the city they represent to raise money and awareness for the “growing number” of homeless in the city. The four Councillors, Stephen Clarke (Southville), Paula O'Rourke (Clifton), Carla Denyer (Clifton Down) and Eleanor Combley (Bishopston & Ashley Down) will be sleeping out at Pip n Jay Church in the centre of Bristol on Friday 24th February.
Latest official figures show an estimated 4,134 people were forced to sleep outside in 2016, up 16% on the previous year and Bristol having the 5th highest number of rough sleepers outside of London. Last month’s official rough sleeper count in Bristol found 74 people sleeping on the streets although the number is probably higher than that.
Commenting on the housing crisis in the city, Cllr Carla Denyer, said,
“As local politicians representing the third largest party on Bristol City Council, we have been working to address the housing crisis in the city, and especially pushing for more affordable housing including through recently putting a motion to council. However, progress has not been fast enough – there are still far too many people sleeping rough every night. So as well as working towards better policies for the long-term, we wanted to do something to support homeless people right now, and raise awareness of the issue.”
Commenting on spending a winter night sleeping rough, Cllr Paula O’Rourke said,
“Buying a coffee or giving change to someone begging on the street might help with my own guilt for a while, but the problem is systemic and needs both city and nation-wide solutions.
There are young people begging in my ward and they need help to put their lives back together. However, they are deemed not 'at risk enough' to be eligible for support from the authorities. As a local councillor I am sick and tired of talking to support organizations who tell me that they don't have enough money. That is why we need to raise as much as we can whilst also sending a clear message to both the local council and national government that this financial situation is not good enough.”
Cllr Stephen Clarke added,
“Of course it will be cold for us, but, it is only one night and we will have safety-in-numbers; imagine having to sleep out on your own every night vulnerable. It shouldn't be happening in the 21st century, let alone in Bristol which is a city that prides itself on compassion and support. Supporting agencies are looking desperately for resources to support people back onto their feet and so we must all do all we can help.”