Open empty shops to prevent further homeless deaths, say campaigners

Homelessness Shames Glasgow bannerHomelessness campaigners have called for empty shops to be opened up to provide shelter for rough sleepers following the death of a man in Glasgow city centre.

The man, who was believed to be homeless, was discovered on Tuesday morning in the city’s Trongate area and charities fear that freezing temperatures may have killed him.

Police were called to the scene at 9.10am but later confirmed there were no suspicious circumstances around the death.

The incident has led to calls from campaigners to open up all available empty buildings to protect rough sleepers and prevent any future deaths.

Activists also held an emergency demo and distributed food, warm clothing and sleeping bags to homeless people in Glasgow following the death.

Homelessness activists say the city council is failing its legal obligations to look after homeless people – and demanded radical action, including opening up empty shops.

A spokesperson for the campaigners said: “On Tuesday morning a man believed to be called Mathew was found dead in Glasgow city centre. He had been forced to sleep rough for some time.

“No one should be forced to sleep on the streets of Glasgow, the fact that there is so many is a sign that Glasgow City Council are breaking the law.

“The homelessness order, voted through by the Scottish Parliament in 2012, ensured the right of everyone that is unintentionally homeless to be housed by their local authority in temporary accommodation.

“The list of problems are immense front line services and workers are being cut by council bosses as demand grows.

“Over the last few months and over the winter we have been asking the council to open up some of the empty shop fronts that dominate our city centre. Open them up and give those who have nowhere else to sleep the minimum protection of warmth and shelter.

“This was met with absolute disdain and indifference. Other campaigners who launched a petition along similar lines won some small promises from the council that additional support would be provided however we have had no evidence of this.

A city council spokesperson said: “This was a tragic death and a police investigation is currently on-going.

“The cause of death has still to be determined and it would be inappropriate to comment on this until the facts have been established.

“Our street team works in the city centre every day to engage directly with people affected by homelessness and to direct them to them to available support.

“The reasons for homelessness can be complex and moving on from a chaotic lifestyle can be very difficult.”

Images courtesy of Suki Sangha on Twitter

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