Leeds '˜Tent City' campaigners celebrate as council offers up alternative site

Campaigners who set up a camp for homeless people in Leeds were in court again today as the council sought to move them on for a second time.

Tuesday, 4th October 2016, 2:12 pm
Updated Wednesday, 5th October 2016, 3:39 pm
Campaigners and residents of 'Tent City' in Leeds celebrate after the council offered an alternative site. Picture: Dean Michaels Photography.

But there was unexpected good news for the group behind ‘Tent City’ as they were offered an alternative site.

Leeds City Council has agreed to give over part of the former Leeds International Pool site in Westgate.

The camp, being run by a group called Leeds Voice for the Homeless, will be able to operate without fear of being moved on for six weeks.

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A camp for the homeless was set up in Park Square last Monday night.

The council has also committed to carry out housing assessments for everyone staying there during that period.

One group member said: “We went to the council a week ago asking for some land, they refused but today they conceded. It’s a massive victory on our behalf.”

But the council has said that it does not view the measure as a permanent solution.

A spokeswoman said: “We don’t support the idea of a permanent tented city as is doesn’t resolve the issue or address the challenge of being able to engage with people who have a range of complicated problems that need various support and health services to help them to a better life.

The camp, known as Tent City, is offering shelter to the homeless.

“If, at the end of the six week period, everyone’s best endeavours haven’t resulted in the group disbanding voluntarily from the site, we’ll look at the legal options available to us as we have to balance the needs of the vulnerable alongside those of other residents and businesses in the city.”

Supporters of Leeds Homeless Partnership had initially pitched around 15 tents outside Leeds Art Gallery in Victoria Gardens on September 21.

They invited homeless people from across Leeds to stay in ‘Tent City’ alongside them as they sought to raise awareness of the issue.

But the camp had to relocate after the council won a court order forcing the group to leave the site by last Tuesday.

A camp for the homeless was set up in Park Square last Monday night.

Leeds ‘Tent City’ homeless man’s emotional family reunionLeeds ‘tent city’ campaigners move to new city centre siteContinuing under the banner of Leeds Voice for the Homeless, the group had been running a camp in Park Square gardens since then.

The group said that around 50 homeless people were now staying there in tents recovered from Bramham Park after Leeds Festival.

Leeds City Council yesterday applied to Leeds County Court for a second order to move the group on, but the case was adjourned.

A council spokeswoman said it was seeking a possession order because Park Square was a key location for the upcoming Light Night event.

The camp, known as Tent City, is offering shelter to the homeless.

Following this morning’s hearing, those staying in Park Square have already started to move on to the new site.

The camp’s stated aims were to provide long-term accommodation for the homeless on the site, emergency accommodation for youth and out-of-town rough sleepers, to help build more accurate figures on rough sleepers and to seek ‘a more positive approach’ from the council when it updates its homeless policy.

A spokesman said: “Finally the council are accepting the amount of people in Leeds with no option but to sleep on the streets and are starting to take positive steps to get them into homes.

“In the meantime, they now have a safe place to stay. I just hope the council will work with us to ensure people receive the help they need sooner in the future.”

But the council maintained its position that there was no need for anyone to sleep rough in the city.

The spokeswoman said: “There is accommodation and support available and our priority remains providing vulnerable people with the help they need.

“We’d prefer the group to disband voluntarily, however, they clearly wish to continue their protest. Continually going to court to move people on is costly and unproductive as there are few, if any, locations in a city as diverse as Leeds where the camp wouldn’t cause some level of disruption to residents and businesses.

“Allowing the protesters to temporarily use the International Pool site for an interim six week period is not ideal but is the least worst option.

“As throughout this protest, we’re committed to engaging with the group so everyone that needs assistance get it. The group have committed to working with agencies to ensure this happens.”