A B&B owner has described the desperate moments passers-by made heroic, last gasp attempts to save the life of a man sleeping rough on the Capital’s streets in sub-zero temperatures.
He was one of two sleeping through the night in lows of -5C on a discarded mattress near bins on East London Street, when his friend cried out for help as he couldn’t wake him.
While it is not known if the men were homeless, politicians said the tragedy on the streets of the Capital highlighted an issue which should “shame us all”.
Owner of Ramsay’s B&B, Norman Ramsay, 56, was left in shock after witnessing the surviving man’s despair after he was unable to wake his friend on Thursday morning. Mr Ramsay told the Evening News: “I came along the street this morning at 6.45am and saw two gentleman lying on the pavement on a mattress in sleeping bags.
“When I got in I saw one man rolling his sleeping bag up and then shaking his friend but he wasn’t responding. I knew something wasn’t right.
“One of the neighbours went out and must have been speaking to the NHS on the phone while giving CPR. He started being sick because he obviously hadn’t done anything like that before. Next thing a woman comes running down the road in her pyjamas, she must have been a doctor or something. The emergency responders arrived and she was helping the paramedic. It was very dramatic. They looked like they were homeless.”
The man’s death is being treated as unexplained while it is not believed to be suspicious but officers cordoned off the scene, near St Mary’s Primary School, following the discovery at around 7.45am. Forensics were also in attendance until 11.20am. Police said a report will go to the Fiscal.
Mr Ramsay added: “I gave a coffee to the other gentleman who was really shook up. It was very icy and cold last night. I’ve been living here for 11 years and I’ve never seen anything like this happen. It’s really sad. I’ve never seen homeless people sleeping rough on this street. I would say they were in their 50s. I still can’t believe it. I can’t get my head round it.
“Somebody must have thrown that mattress outside near the bins and they must have come along and thought it’s better than sleeping on the ground tonight. It’s just tragic.”
It was not known why the men were sleeping rough. One suggestion is they had been on a night out and simply took to sleep after spotting a mattress.
The death occurred on the same day Edinburgh City Council looked at the wider homeless issue in the city as part of this year’s budget to reduce the number of those being placed in emergency B&B accommodation.
At yesterday’s full council meeting, SNP councillor Kate Campbell, who chairs the city’s homelessness task force, said additional support from the Scottish Government had not managed to stop a tragedy from happening.
She said: “Last night two men were rough-sleeping on East London Street. This morning one of the men did not wake up.
“This is something that should shame us all. But it must also spur us to act.”
According to council figures, ten men and eight women died while sleeping on the streets in the year to March 2016. T
“This latest tragedy comes after the tragic death of ex-serviceman Darren Greenfield, 47, who was regularly seen asking for change at the top of Waverley Steps after struggling to adapt to civilian life upon leaving the army.
He was rushed to hospital on December 17 last year after contracting an infection as a result of long-term health problems while sleeping rough on the street, but died later that day.
A Cyrenians spokesman said: “It is so sad to hear of another person who has died while sleeping rough in Edinburgh.
“Our thoughts are with this man’s friends and family, and those people who came to his aid early this morning.
“Unfortunately, the tough reality of sleeping out on the streets is that it is an awful existence, tougher than most of us could imagine. Life expectancy for men sleeping rough in Scotland is on average just 47 years of age and this year it is estimated that there were more than 5,000 men and women sleeping on the streets in this country.
“Sometimes, people spending time on the streets are unaware of the services that are available to provide support.”
Charity SocialBite says it is “on a mission to end homelessness in Scotland” with its Sleep in the Park event raising £3 million, which will go towards homes for 600 rough sleepers.
Scotland’s first homeless village, ten two-bedroom homes in Granton, is expected to welcome its first tenants this year.
Money was raised over the festive period as part of the Edinburgh Cheer campaign to donate more than 50 all-season sleeping bags to those living on the Capital’s streets.
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, added: “It is simply shameful and unacceptable that this is happening in 21st century Scotland.
“Each death of a rough sleeper represents a human life lost too soon and is deeply concerning. Edinburgh and Scotland need a step change in the provision of safe and secure affordable housing.”