A HOMELESS charity has seen a rise in the number of rough sleepers in the town centre as services were forced to close their doors amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The Barnsley Rough Sleepers Project has started a nightly outreach service to connect with people sleeping rough during the pandemic as a result of growing demand.

The team had seen the amount of people sleeping on the street decrease throughout April, as further temporary accommodation was made available by the council.

However, in the last week, the charity reported an increase in rough sleepers appearing in the town centre as access to services has been restricted.

Andrew Crawford, from Barnsley Rough Sleepers Project, said: “Unrelated to coronavirus, the drop-in centre temporarily closed in March, just as the situation was developing.

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“We knew the combination of the drop-in closing and businesses across town having to close meant there‘d be a handful of rough sleepers without access to practical support.

“Sadly over this last week we’ve seen an increase in rough sleepers, with a couple of out-of-area new faces appearing in the town centre.

“There’s been nothing implemented over the past couple of months that couldn’t have been put in place pre-coronavirus, and I fear the self-congratulating will, soon enough, turn to complacency.

“Any long-term good will be negligible if follow-on services aren’t adequately funded and equipped when restrictions start to lift.

“It’s dangerous at any time to sleep on the streets, this pandemic doesn’t particularly increase or decrease the risk of being assaulted, robbed or abused.

“However a lack of access to services, nowhere to wash and nowhere to buy food are become more troubling as the weeks go by.”

With lockdown restrictions limiting the amount of people walking around the town centre, rough sleepers will no longer get the same social interaction they usually would.

“There’s a social side that disappeared when the virus struck as well.

“The loss of such simple things like a ‘good morning’ from a regular passer-by, a chat with other rough sleepers before bedding down or missing a regular face-to-face visit with a support worker will contribute towards feelings of abandonment.”

Andrew believes the work the outreach team at Barnsley Council have done across the borough has helped to keep spirits up.

“On Tuesday night, I was chatting with a chap rough sleeping, and he said this morning he only survived his emotions because the council outreach team found him.

“The team brought him a hot coffee and a bun, made some phone calls and gave him hope for a positive housing outcome in the next couple of days.”