Bristol homeless housed in empty buildings over winter

Life-sized sleeping person glass sculpture by Luke Jerram Image copyright AP
Image caption Bristol artist Luke Jerram has created a life-sized glass sculpture of a street sleeper to raise awareness of the issue

Four empty buildings identified as suitable to house homeless people over winter could soon be ready for use, Bristol City Council said.

Official figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government showed 97 people sleeping rough in the city in 2015 - up from 41 in 2014.

An extra 20 beds have also been made available for rough sleepers through the charity St Mungo's Broadway.

The council said it hoped to open one of the buildings from January.

Image caption An official count of rough sleepers in Bristol found 97 people in 2015 up from 41 people in 2014

Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson described the "significant increase in homelessness and rough sleepers" as a "growing challenge" and said: "We need to do everything we can to address the problem."

He set up a rough sleeping task group to work with police, charities and other partners to identify buildings which can be used as night shelters while secure longer term accommodation is found.

Adam Rees, regional director for St Mungo's Broadway and chair of the task group, said: "We are committed to bring people off the streets as quickly as possible and sort out safe, secure, sustainable accommodation and support."

A petition calling on Bristol City Council to follow the lead of Manchester City Council and open up empty council buildings as overnight shelters for the city's rough sleepers has been created by Bristol student Elisha Hindley-Cupper.

More than 12,600 people have signed it in a month.

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