Charities in Glasgow are calling on the city council to open its winter shelter early after an unexpected cold snap saw temperatures plummet below freezing.
A man, believed to be homeless, died on Sunday after being discovered in a city centre car park.
Temperatures in Scotland dropped to -8.1C (17.4F) on Sunday with it was -8C Monday (17.6F) in Glasgow on Monday night.
The city’s winter night shelter is not due to open its doors until 1 December.
Glasgow’s Health and Social Care partnership, however, said while the man’s death was a “tragedy”, to the best of its knowledge it was not directly related to provision of the temporary shelter service.
Pressure on services
Street charities say Glasgow City Council is “failing” homeless people after almost £3m of budget cuts to services came into force on 1 October.
These cuts affected 970 temporary properties managed by service providers for the council across the city, and equate to the loss of 99 beds.
Simon Community Scotland, one of the organisations GCC employs to provide services to homeless people sleeping on the streets in Glasgow, said its supplies were running dangerously low.
The charity plans for the coldest weather to come in February in March, so the past week’s low temperatures have been a challenge.
Director of services Hugh Hill told the BBC: “We are rapidly going through our stocks of winter supplies – thermals, sleeping bags etc. We are flying through them and we are not due to launch our appeal until December.”
The Glasgow Winter Night Shelter opens on 1 December until 31 March.
It is run by Glasgow City Mission on behalf of the council and several other partner charities and agencies to provide overnight emergency accommodation.
Sean Clerkin, campaigns co-ordinator for the Scottish Tenants Organisation, says more buildings need to be made available for emergency accommodation.
He said: “We are calling for Glasgow City Council to open up some public buildings to house the homeless overnight.
“They need to provide a warm, secure environment with food, sleeping bags and medical advice.
“That is the short-term measure. Open the shelter now. There will be more deaths this winter unless action is taken.”
In October the homeless charity Shelter Scotland announced it was mounting a legal action against the council, claiming it was failing in its legal duty to provide temporary accommodation.
It followed concerns over “gatekeeping”, where a homeless person is denied access to services and the charity claimed people have been illegally denied a place in temporary accommodation.
But the council said its services face “significant, perhaps unique” pressures compared to other parts of Scotland.
Anton Reilly runs Help The Homeless charity in the city, which provides food, clothing and practical help to rough sleepers. He believes the problem will escalate.
He said: “The man that died has been let down by the system that’s clearly not working.
“There’s a lot of angry people out there today blaming the council for not doing more – closing more hostels and slashing services.
“The problem will get worse and this won’t be the first death in these coming weeks. It angers and upsets me that this is still happening.”
A spokeswoman for Glasgow’s Health & Social Care Partnership said: “This tragic case is not – to the best of our knowledge – related to the provision of this service.”
Shelters ‘not the solution’
The homelessness charity Crisis said that while the detailed circumstances surrounding the man’s death in Glasgow remained unclear, there was a wider failure by society to address the issues that lead to homelessness.
Crisis Scotland director Grant Campbell told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland it was likely “society didn’t fail this individual last night or the night before but just over the past 10 years, 15 years, 20 years.”
He added: “Statistically we find out that often people who are stuck on the streets have been through sometimes a life of care, have been in and out of prison, often struggle with mental health issues.
“Society has has a touch point with an individual for many, many years and occasions – so this failure wasn’t just at one point but was for a prolonged period of time.”
Mr Campbell said he believed temporary shelters were “not the solution”.
“There is great compassion in society to say we want to do the right thing for people and that often leads us to build shelters,” he said.
“However, the real challenge, if we really want to find solutions, is actually to look at housing. Each year we say ‘we don’t have enough housing, let’s put a shelter in place’, the temptation to grow shelters means we will fill more of them and they go on for longer.
“Next year we could have two or three and not move away from that. We have got to keep challenging Scottish government and local government to do more regarding housing and look for other solutions, which there are.”