As temperatures dipped to zero over the weekend, the homeless of Bournemouth and Poole were reminded of the tough times ahead.
Big Issue vender Robert Ward, who has been homeless most of his life, said the hour change signals a difficult start where feeling down, cold and hungry are just part of day-to-day life.
“I can actually feel my stomach hurting,” he said, adding that the cold and dark days are “depressing”.
While the Christmas weeks can bring some sympathy for Big Issue vendors, Ward said that during the festivities “shoplifters and beggars” get temporary vendor cards, leading to fighting over selling patches.
Fights have taken place in busy public areas, he said, such as the one on Old Christchurch Road where he works.
The weather this weekend was caused by northerly winds drawing cold Arctic air across the UK. The Met Office recorded overnight temperatures of -2 and +2 Celsius.
In a bid to help the homeless during cold weather, an initiative called Winter Watch was set up at St Paul’s Church in Bournemouth by the charity BCHA. The service provides additional support for the homeless with extra beds and food.
Last year Winter Watch provided 700 extra bed spaces and helped 89 people off the streets of Bournemouth, they said.
But the service is only available when the temperature drops below freezing, said Ward, and temperatures just above, mean people must sleep rough.
In a press release last month, Rick Henderson, Chief Executive of Homeless Link, said, “We know that cold weather provision has improved in recent years but we can go even further. Getting it right now could save lives.”
“We know that many services are working closely to ensure that no one is left out this winter,” he said.
Reverend Pat Southgate, who works for Roots to Routes homeless shelter in Poole, agreed saying that they have measures in place to help when the weather becomes very cold, stressing they do everything they can whatever the weather.
Similar weather is expected next week, with temperatures remaining below average.