Beggars have become a common sight in Sweden's capital in 2014, with up to 500 mostly Roma migrants arriving since the spring, according to Stockholm City Council.
The council is preparing to open a disused public building in a currently undisclosed location on days when temperatures drop below -7C, but it won't be available until at least the end of the first week in January. Night time temperatures in the Swedish capital have fallen to as low as -12C in recent days.
“The cold weather came about a week earlier than expected,” Veronica Wollgast Karlberg, project manager at the city's Social Services Department told The Local.
“We are making this building available because we have almost double the number of poor EU migrants in the city compared to this time last year. It won't be ready until January, so we are asking our usual partner organizations to help in the meantime”.
Those organizations include the Salvation Army and several churches around the capital.
“We had around 80 people here tonight. The rumour spread quickly,” said Niklas Piensoho, pastor of Filadelfiakyrkan about his church opening its doors to homeless and other vulnerable guests this week.
Speaking to Sweden's Metro newspaper, he said that he had received over 200 messages from Stockholmers keen to help and said he had scheduled a meeting tonight to gather volunteers.
“It't great that no one will be freezing to death,” he added.
Beggars have been a common sight in Stockholm since the spring. Photo: The Local
Wollgast Karlberg from Stockholm City Council insists that there will be enough space for people using the current shelters, because many EU migrants have returned to their home countries over the festive period.
But she added that the new shelter was necessary with the number of Roma beggars and asylum seekers expected to rise further in 2015.
“I don't know how we will deal with the increase but we are working hard. We are taking it day by day and planning ahead for the spring,” she told The Local.