Extracts from Night Duty: Night Watchmen on the Trains
April 21, 201503:51 am: The stars are bright tonight. Although spring is on its way, the frost bites slightly in our cheeks. We have already seen about 14
April 29, 2016
The night between Thursday and Friday, two of our street-based workers were on night duty.
We do that on a continuous basis to help the people on the streets and to get a perspective on who are sleeping rough. The purpose is always to see whether the homeless are able to take care of themselves and are equipped to spend the night outdoors with proper clothing and sleeping bags, and if they are particularly vulnerable we try to build up a relationship and create the proper help through this.
In addition, we may have various priorities during night duty. Perhaps we have found a sleeping space during the day that looks active but which we have not succeeded in visiting when somebody was there. Night duty is a very good opportunity to get to see the rough sleeper in the space and offer him/her a cup of coffee and a chat. We usually bring coffee along with us during night duty as it is nice to be able to offer the homeless something hot and it is a good way to start the contact.
The purpose of night duty may also be to look for a particular homeless that we worry about and who we have difficulty finding during the day. From time to time, we meet people on the streets who deny that they are homeless. It is hard for us as street-based workers to judge whether the person is homeless or not. If we succeed finding the person sleeping rough at night, we get confirmation and can continue working on establishing a good contact.
We also count the homeless, sleeping rough to get a feeling of the number of rough sleepers in the city, knowing that there are far more than those, we meet on our duty. Our purpose is not necessarily to count, but it supports our knowledge that people are sleeping rough.
During last week’s night duty we had various priorities. We paid a visit to a couple of our permanent users with whom we have a good contact and had a nice chat and a cup of coffee. Recently, we met a homeless woman with whom we are establishing good relations in order to settle her situation. Hopefully, we will be allowed to help her, if she needs it. We had hoped to meet her during our night duty, as it is something special to meet at night when the city is quiet. Unfortunately, we did not but it only means that we will try again.
Before leaving on our night duty, we had the idea that we would meet many homeless people. First and foremost, we have seen many vulnerable people in the city during the day and we also know that many homeless people enter the city in the spring and summer.
In addition, the city’s last temporary shelters were shut down at the end of March. That is that the temporary shelters that have been beneficiaries of public funds through the SATS pool in order to provide a place to sleep to homeless people during the coldest months of the year, from December to March, have been closed and that the homeless are now left to sleep rough again. We therefore anticipated meeting many people especially on this night duty. We are not unaccustomed to meet 20-40 rough sleepers during our night duties, but last week we ended up meeting 81 people sleeping rough. In addition, we know several that we know are sleeping rough, who we did not meet this particular night.
Through our daily work, we know several people who have to sleep rough, this being our primary target group, but the fact that two people on a random night in Copenhagen find 81 homeless sleeping rough, made an impression on us and confirms our impression that there is a need of a professional outreach initiative.