UK weather: Fire stations open doors to homeless people as temperatures set to plunge as low as -5c overnight

Jeff Farrell
Some 300,000 people have no other choice: PA Wire/PA Images

Fire stations have thrown open their doors to homeless people amid warnings the weather at the weekend is going to be dangerously cold.

The Met Office has issued a yellow warning over snow and ice in Manchester, with temperatures expected to drop to as low as -5C in parts overnight into Saturday.

Common areas have been turned into temporary shelters in two emergency services centres to help house more rough sleepers in the city during the sub-zero conditions.

Manchester Central and Ashton stations have converted areas in their buildings into living spaces which will be run by care workers, the Manchester Evening News reported.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham called on community leaders, including police and housing officials, to take “immediate” action over the crisis.

County fire service spokesman Tony Hunter told the Manchester Evening News it was a “natural step” for the emergency service to help out.

“For a number of years now GMFRS has been championing all of its fire stations as community assets and opening its doors to members of the public so it is a natural step for the service to support the ongoing homelessness work in the city,” he said.

“The community rooms that are being used as part of this initiative are heated and have hot and cold water and toilet facilities.

"The rooms are separate from the operational areas of the stations and the initiative is supported by partners who will be at the station to facilitate people using the building, which allows firefighters to continue to do their jobs and respond to incidents in the usual way.”

Mr Burnham told the Manchester Evening News: “This is a clear example of all agencies in Greater Manchester pulling together to help support some of the most vulnerable people in our city region.

"Whilst most of us are enjoying the festive season, for those who have no choice but to sleep on the streets it is a lonely, dangerous, and potentially life-threatening time.”

The initiative is part of a wider plan to tackle homelessness in the city over Christmas, with calls also made to use empty student rooms over the holiday season for rough sleepers.

It comes as more than 300,000 are now living on the streets across Britain — equivalent to a city the size of Newcastle — after the number of people who lost their home in the past year soared, the Shelter charity said.