Rough sleeper Lee Jenkinson was given the tenancy of a council flat before his death, it has emerged.
Leeds City Council have stated that half of the homeless people who have died in the past year while sleeping on the streets of Leeds had been given permanent accommodation before their deaths, including Lee.
"My kids called him Dad": Ex-partner's tribute to Lee Jenkins
However, a range of complex factors can prevent entrenched rough sleepers from accepting housing assistance.
Peaky Blinders actor Cillian Murphy bought Lee Jenkins a coffee while filming in Leeds
A council statement said:
“We send our condolences to Lee’s family and friends, his passing will surely be sharply felt, particularly at this time of year. His case highlights the complexity of many of those who sleep rough in the city. We know he had a tenancy, we know he had the support of people who cared for him, and he was known to a range of commissioned services and charities who were trying to work with him to keep him safe, as indeed are most of those who rough sleep, and yet in many instances he was still sleeping on the streets.
“It’s a sad fact that many of those most at risk in the city feel they are unable to take up offers of help and recovery. Over half of those rough sleepers who have died in the city this year had tenancies or accommodation at the time of their deaths. This demonstrates the real challenge to us and our city; providing accommodation to those who rough sleep is often the easy bit. We can’t force people to take help, to engage with rehabilitation programmes, to rebuild meaningful lives away from the city streets. We can only continue to offer help and support and work to build relationships with individuals in the hope that one day they will be able to let us help them.”
The charity responds
Gordon Laing from homeless outreach charity Simon on the Streets, which had worked with Lee, said that it was difficult to uproot long-term rough sleepers if they were offered accommodation away from the city centre and their existing support networks.
Tributes paid to Lee Jenkins
"Lee did have a tenancy, as do a number of rough sleepers
"The public are often under the misconception that to get rough sleepers 'off the streets' it is as simple as giving them a property. Unfortunately, for many this is not the case and these are the people on whom that we, as a charity, concentrate our efforts.
"Imagine living on the streets for a number of months or years, your entire support network is around you - fellow rough sleepers, members of the public who befriend you, shopkeepers that look after you, the support services and charities that make sure you are OK each day. Naturally, you begin to feel that the streets are 'home'.
"Now imagine making that huge step to seeking and being given a property. The property may be some distance from the city centre and everything you know, invariably you will not know anyone and you will not have enough money to travel daily to/from the city centre. In short, you have been unwittingly cut off from the life and support that you know. Add to that the strangeness and pressures of running a house, paying bills, doing shopping, dealing with electrics or plumbing that stops working, even dealing with having neighbours. Some people just cannot cope and will often drift back to the streets where they feel safe and at home.
"We work with our service users as much as possible to support them in tenancies and even this does not always work, those not supported by us have even less support to transition to their new life of 'normality'. LCC is working very hard to help people move from the streets into properties and they should be commended but more can be done to continue and increase the support that people are given to help them remain in properties."
How did Lee die?
Lee died in hospital from an illness described as a heart infection by his sister, with family members at his bedside.
He and his dog Lady were well-known in the Wellington Street area, where they often sat. Lee's family have offered to adopt Lady.
Lee's former partner Nicola Ford, of Kirkstall, said he would regularly send cards and money for her teenage daughters, who still saw him as a father figure despite their five-year relationship ending several years ago.