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Crystal Palace to accommodate the homeless

English Premier League football club Crystal Palace has entered into a partnership with Croydon Council to utilise its stadium as an emergency shelter for rough sleepers in the local area.

The London club and its local council have agreed a deal whereby 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 will be welcomed with a camp bed for the night, along with 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 will offer longer-term accommodation, financial advice and help with any medical needs to prevent those utilising the service from returning to the streets.

The venture takes effect whenever London temperatures are forecast to hit zero degrees or colder, which triggers the council’s severe weather emergency protocol. The new emergency shelter was made available for the first time yesterday (Thursday) evening, when eight rough sleepers were accommodated at Selhurst Park.

When the stadium 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.”

Palace holds existing ties with Crisis, the UK’s national charity for single homeless people. 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 club’s training ground.

Crystal Palace chief executive Phil Alexander said: “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.”

In April, Crystal Palace was given permission to go ahead with the redevelopment of Selhurst Park by Croydon Council. The club first revealed plans to increase Selhurst Park’s capacity from 26,000 to 34,000 back in December 2017, with the redevelopment of the stadium’s Main Stand central to the project.

Image: Ungry Young Man