Is enough being done to help homeless in Leeds?

The issue of rough sleepers and beggers in the city has been a hot topic.
The issue of rough sleepers and beggers in the city has been a hot topic.
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A VOLUNTARY group set up to support homeless people in Leeds is planning a city centre rally to highlight the issue.

Members of Leeds Homeless Partnership say the council is not doing enough to support those sleeping rough or without a permanent home.

They hope the march on August 13 will prompt greater action from the council to tackle the problem.

Partnership member Haydn Jessop said: “Not all homeless people are sleeping rough, many are ‘sofa surfers’ who move between the homes of different friends because they have nowhere to live – these are homeless people too.”

The group’s volunteers run a street kitchen every Monday at Mill Hill Chapel, which feeds around 75 to 80 people.

They also talk to people sleeping rough or begging and try to help them access existing services and support.

Earlier this year, they faced some criticism from the authorities when they asked people to donate sleeping bags and tents.

Mr Jessop said they had taken on the advice about donations and were working with charities like St George’s Crypt, which runs a shelter.

But they remain unhappy with the council’s overall response to homelessness.

“The council has only just started coming to terms with what we’re doing. The outreach team just aren’t doing enough,” said Mr Jessop.

“We have volunteers in the centre during the day and we’ve got around 20 rough sleepers we help three or four times a week. There’s people who fall through the cracks and we can help deal with them.”

A Leeds City Council spokesman said it remained absolutely committed to helping the vulnerable, homeless and anyone begging, and worked closely with other organisations.

He said Leeds was the only one of the eight largest city economies outside London to see a reduction rough sleepers over the past two years.

“As part of our day-to-day work in the city, we offer access to a wide range of support services and also a bed for the night to ensure that no one has to sleep on the streets,” he said.

A dedicated council outreach service carries out a minimum of three ‘street sweeps’ per week to find rough sleepers and offer them accommodation and help, although not all of them accept the support on offer and work with them is ongoing.

The issue of homelessness and street begging was raised during the latest meeting of the council’s Environment and Housing Scrutiny Committee.

The rally will set off from Leeds Town Hall at 1pm before marching through the centre.

It is also being supported by Real Change Leeds and Hands Together (Batley), who help to run other street kitchens in the city.

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