Rough sleepers in Croydon can now get emergency shelter at a Premier League football stadium in extreme weather conditions under a deal between the council and Crystal Palace FC.
The football club and Croydon Council have entered into an agreement where a lounge at Selhurst Park is turned into a temporary overnight shelter for up 10 rough sleepers whenever night time temperatures are forecast to drop below freezing.
Under the deal, people formally identified as rough sleeping are referred by outreach staff to Selhurst Park, where they are welcomed with a camp bed for the night, a hot evening meal, breakfast and washing facilities.
The space is converted back for normal club use each morning, when specialists from the council’s Gateway homelessness prevention service and Thames Reach support workers offer longer-term accommodation, financial advice and help with any medical needs to prevent these rough sleepers from returning to the streets.
The arrangement with Crystal Palace takes effect whenever London temperatures are forecast to hit zero degrees or colder, which triggers the council’s severe weather emergency protocol. This emergency shelter is in addition to rough sleeper referrals who go to the Croydon Churches’ Floating Shelter throughout the winter.
The new emergency shelter was made available for the first time last night (Thursday), when eight rough sleepers were accommodated at Selhurst Park.
When Selhurst Park is unavailable because of home matches, the council will continue to refer rough sleepers to other emergency shelters in Croydon and central London.
Councillor Alison Butler, deputy leader and cabinet member for homes and Gateway services, said: “Freezing temperatures are a particular safety risk for rough sleepers and this is a wonderful gesture by Crystal Palace for helping us reduce that risk. I do hope that the actions and support of our local Premier League football club will encourage more businesses in Croydon to get in touch and do what they can to help us address homelessness. Crystal Palace are setting a standard for other clubs to follow.”
Crystal Palace Football Club chief executive Phil Alexander said: “We are delighted to be collaborating with Croydon Council and their partner agencies to ensure that rough sleepers can find an emergency shelter in the event of severe winter weather. The club wants to be a force for good in the community and we are happy to do our bit to help those most in need. A huge thank you to all the volunteers who have given their time freely to make this happen, including club staff, as well as to Sainsbury’s Crystal Palace for donating food.”
Crystal Palace Football Club has a strong relationship with the charity Crisis. First-team stars Mamadou Sakho and Christian Benteke visited the Crisis Skylight Centre for homeless people in Croydon last month and in November two members of the England squad for the Homeless World Cup met manager Roy Hodgson and the first-team squad at the Crystal Palace training ground.