Leeds ‘tent city’ campaigners move to new city centre site

Homeless campaigners in Park Square after being evicted from Victoria Gardens.  PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Homeless campaigners in Park Square after being evicted from Victoria Gardens. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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Homelessness campaigners evicted from council land in the heart of the Leeds have set up a new camp.

Supporters of Leeds Homeless Partnership had been living in ‘Tent City’ since Wednesday evening to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness.

Garry Mackintosh and Haydn Jessop, of Leeds Homeless Partnership, at 'Tent City' in Leeds.

Garry Mackintosh and Haydn Jessop, of Leeds Homeless Partnership, at 'Tent City' in Leeds.

The camp in Victoria Gardens grew to include around 60 tents, with rough sleepers found elsewhere in the city being invited to make use of tents not occupied by campaigners.

After being forced to leave the site, the group has set up a new camp in the gardens in Park Square.

Yesterday morning (Monday) the courts heard an application from Leeds City Council to move the protestors off Victoria Gardens.

The public space outside Leeds Art Gallery is next to the Headrow, which is a key location for Wednesday’s Rio Heroes homecoming parade.

We came to the conclusion they needed somewhere safe they can set up.

Haydn Jessop, Leeds Homeless Partnership

The court order stated that the group must clear the site by 9am today.

Leeds Homeless Partnership member Haydn Jessop told the YEP said: “We’re still not being taken seriously by the council. They’re talking along the lines that there are no homeless people – they believe it.

“We are going to carry on until the council listens.”

He said the idea of the camp was to create a safe space for homeless people in the city after they received reports of harrassment of rough sleepers.

He added that the group would have chosen an alternative site originally had they known the parade was due to take place.

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The group has previously staged a march through the city centre to highlight the issue, and collected dozens of abandoned tents from the Leeds Festival site last month.

A Leeds City Council spokesman today said: “We are aware that the protest group has now relocated to Park Square.

“We are currently examining a number of options regarding this, however, as always, our long-term priority remains working constructively and practically with partners to help and support the homeless and rough sleepers in Leeds.

“Nobody in Leeds has to sleep rough, and we hope that everyone will work with us to provide suitable support and assistance to anyone in housing need.”

The latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics found there were 13 people sleeping rough in Leeds in autumn 2015, down from 15 the previous year.

They revealed that 8,368 actions to prevent or relieve homelessness were taken by Leeds City Council during 2015/16, up from 2,560 in 2009/10.

A further 505 households were given accommodation after being declared as statutory homeless last year.

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