SUNDAY morning, the snow in the garden and the clear blue sky looked lovely. A snowman proudly guarded the front lawn. My son had made best use of his snow day on Friday; his disappointment now growing as his snowy friend melted away.

The arrival of the snow was not welcomed everywhere. There was the predictable chaos on the roads. Schools closed and events cancelled. As slush froze overnight to ice, it is probable many people will have suffered due to slips and falls.

For the homeless, the snow and the cold are life threatening. At Alabaré, we are desperately concerned about those sleeping rough. Helping people who are living chaotic lives takes care, patience and time; it means finding the right solution for each person, and is rarely straightforward. The critical thing is that we get them shelter and help as quickly as possible.

A phone call with Nicki, the manager of Alabaré Place, highlighted to me again the importance of our crisis care. The drop-in centre was busy on Friday and the emergency winter provision beds were full over the weekend. Several of our clients told Nicki of the desperate difficulties they had faced being out in the cold.

As he ate ravenously, one man spoke of how much the hot food we provide gave him the strength to keep going. Our team were able to secure him a bed for the weekend, valuable time to get a long-term room and support in place for him.

A friend walking through Salisbury was very concerned about seeing people sleeping rough, begging and wondered what best to do.

One of the most meaningful ways to help is simply to stop and talk. Rough sleeping is a lonely and scary experience – a friendly face can make a massive difference. If you choose to give money to the person, it has to be an unconditional gift.

Alternatively you could volunteer at Alabaré and help us ensure that our drop-in centre is open and ready to help, not just now, but for the foreseeable future. We would like the drop-in to be open every day of the year.

The winter weather brings the needs of those living on our streets into sharper focus than probably any other time of the year.

Whilst the publication of the official national rough sleeping figures showed a small drop in numbers in England to 4,677*, the objective has to be to end all homelessness, and now!

Together we can work to make rough sleeping a thing of the past. We all must take action, whatever the weather.

By Andrew Lord

Chief executive officer, Alabaré

*Rough Sleeping Statistics Autumn 2018, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government