No Room On City Streets For The Homeless

There are dozens of people sleeping rough in Leeds but where are they? Graveyards, tunnels, bushes, derelict buildings and stairwells are just some of the places Leeds’ homeless are making their beds, according to a new survey. Few sleep in the city centre, but most of those featured in the study by Leeds Simon Community for Shelter were between friends’ sofas or the streets.

They might not be visible, but more than half of the 143 people questioned had slept rough in spring this year or in autumn of last.

Grant Everitt of Shelter said the homelessness issue was far from over, and praised the YEP-backed StreetSmart campaign, which raises money for Leeds projects working with people without permanent addresses. Mr Everitt, Yorkshire’s street homeless project manager, said: “Rough sleeping hasn’t gone away. In the 1990s rough sleeping was a much more visible phenomena. Knowing that it is less visible we need better methods to fully understand it.”

He added: “The key question was whether people without permanent homes slept in the city centre – very few people said they did.”

Rough sleepers moved out of Leeds city centre when new policies were introduced making it an offence. It has long been the opinion among those working alongside people without homes that this only shifted the problem underground. For this reason Shelter commissioned the study to find out more about the “nature of rough sleeping.”

More than 80 per cent of people questioned were male, most were aged between 20 and 30 and about half were Leeds-born. Mental health issues, divorce, gambling problems and bankruptcy were all listed as reasons as to why they were without a home. But the most common explanations were relationship breakdown and drugs.

A 33-year-old man who took part in the study said: “We should get less grief from the police and the courts because homeless people don’t want to be on the streets.”

StreetSmart Leeds 2006 is challenging diners to chew their way to a £20,000 fundraising target. All they have to do is eat out at a participating restaurant where at the end of their meal a voluntary £1 is added to the bill.