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Rough sleepers risking lives in bins

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Rough sleepers risking lives in bins

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Health and also in Communities

biffa biffa

Rough sleepers are putting their lives at risk by seeking shelter in waste and recycling bins, a new report has warned.

Published today, the study gives a clear idea of how many people are found sleeping in waste containers each year - and how 16% of those sheltering in bins are only discovered when they are tipped out.

The research, produced jointly by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM, recycling company Biffa, and rough sleeping service StreetLink, was commissioned in response to a number of industry-wide near misses and fatalities.

The study found that people are most likely, though not exclusively, to be found sleeping in unlocked bins stored at the rear or side of buildings, and largely in urban areas.

Over the last 12 months, nearly a fifth of waste industry professionals who responded to the questionnaire reported finding people sheltering in bins.

The most typical scenario for a recorded incident of finding someone sheltering in a bin was found to be:

  • A homeless person (58%)
  • In an urban area (88%)
  • At dawn, dusk or night (90%)
  • In wet or cold weather conditions (73%)
  • In a 1100 litre bin (65%) with no lock (50%)
  • At the rear or side of the premises (73%)

In nearly 40% of cases, the bin had a working lock fitted. A third of people were discovered immediately, with 38% being discovered during the lifting operation, and 16% when they were tipped out.

The study found that two thirds of the 176 organisations that took part did not have a formal policy for checking bins prior to tipping.

Matt Harrison, director of StreetLink, said: “Over 2,300 people sleep on our streets every night. This study shows the lengths to which individuals will go to find shelter, especially in bad weather. Anyone who has to seek shelter in a bin, is one individual too many and we must act now to help prevent future deaths.”

Ian Wakelin, CEO of Biffa, said: “Only through understanding the experiences of the waste collection sector can we ensure that we are raising awareness in the most appropriate ways, and training our staff to be vigilant in their checks. Protecting the lives of rough sleepers is absolutely vital and this study will bring us one step closer to that goal.”

The report found that the health and safety policies of waste management organisations do in some cases encourage staff to check bins for rough sleepers, but concludes that this is not yet widespread enough to provide the consistent protection needed.

Mitch Menagh, the Territorial Director of Homelessness Services for The Salvation Army, said: “This research highlights the dangers overlooked by people when faced with the necessary task of finding shelter out of sight from harm, as well as away from the elements when homeless and vulnerable on the streets.

“We encourage the public to make use of the StreetLink phone line. Charities like The Salvation Army provide services that give people more than a place to stay; they provide empowerment so people can get their lives back on track. People sleeping rough need encouraging to take that first step.”

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