Rough sleepers in Wales are to be offered stab proof and fire resistant coats that convert into sleeping bags, in a fresh bid to protect rough sleepers from a recent surge in physical violence, it has been reported.
According to the homelessness charity Crisis, rough sleepers are 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence and 15 times more likely to have suffered verbal abuse than non-homeless people.
And 7 in 10 homeless people and rough sleepers say that violence and abuse commited against rough sleepers has worsened in recent years.
A recent investigation by the charity discovered that 1 in 3 rough sleepers have been deliberately hit or kicked or experienced some other form of violence whilst homeless.
According to the report’s findings, more than 1 in 3 have had things thrown at them whilst homeless, almost 1 in 10 have been urinated on whilst homeless, 1 in 20 have been the victim of a sexual assault, and almost half (48%)have been intimidated or threatened with physical violence.
Commenting on the findings of the report, Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “For anyone sleeping on the street, life can be a struggle just to survive.
“As our research shows, rough sleepers are far more likely to be victims of crime, including violent assault, abuse and intimidation, compared to the general public.
“This is a horrifying state of affairs and shows why we need to prevent people ending up in this situation in the first place.”
The protective coats cost £700 each and will be made by the Red Dragon, a social enterprise that operate out of Swansea, South-Wales.
As well as being “stab proof”, the coats will also be made from fire-resistant materials.
Earlier this year (2019) a rough sleeper was set on fire by callous yobs in Northampton, in a brutal attack that almost cost him his life.
The 47-year old victim, who we have chosen not to name, is said to have only survived the attack because a friend noticed his sleeping bag had been set alight.
His niece, who was reportedly driving past at the time of the incident, told the local press: “I went to go and put it out but he was fast asleep, he didn’t realise he was on fire.
“If his friend hadn’t have spotted him, he would be dead.”
Jo Ashburner Farr, the chief executive of Red Dragon, said the coats are “waterproof, fire-proof and pierce proof”, capable of withstanding temperatures as low as -30C.
The Cardiff based charity Llamau, who employ formerly homeless people and ex-offenders, are supporting the new initiative.
Chief Executive Jo Ashburner Farr told The Guardian: “Anybody who is wearing the roof coat is as safe as possible. But this is a stopgap and must lead to getting the person into a safer environment, which is off the street.”
Asked about who will hand out the protective coats, she responded: “It could be that local authorities or organisations that work with rough sleepers have them and give them out to people that need them.”