Meet the Harehills people battling to shift the stigma of crime and grime

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Overcrowding, crime, language barriers, below average education results and a lower life expectancy.

This is a snapshot of the well-documented issues that blight the council ward of Gipton and Harehills.

Terraced rooftops in Harehills.

Terraced rooftops in Harehills.

In this third day of a Yorkshire Evening Post report into the social inequalities that lie within Leeds we look at the facts behind the stigma and speak to local people in Harehills and ask them, what they think about where they live.

Read More: Why some children in Leeds will die earlier than others a few miles away

A walk down Harehills Road mid-week is on the face of it - a mile of deprivation, difference, demolished buildings and diversity.

Taking closer note, despite the argument between four men in cars blocking a side street, police sirens and settees for garden furniture there is so much more going on, especially in contrast to the sleepy millionaire belt in Harewood.

Living back to back in the rows and rows of houses in Harehills.

Living back to back in the rows and rows of houses in Harehills.

Read more: Secrets to a long life in Harewood

A rough tally of the rows of shops tots up around 15 fast food shops; 17 nail/hair/barber/beauty shops; 25 cornershop/food stores or bakeries; nine clothes shops; four jewellers; three car businesses; an opticians and a chemist; a betting shop and four mobile phone shops.

There are also two cafes an Indian dessert shop, a Persian restaurant and a Middle Eastern restaurant.

It is colourful, it is bright, its is busy and bustling.

Elaine Iggo who is getting her life back on track in Harehills.

Elaine Iggo who is getting her life back on track in Harehills.

Perceptions?

Whatever your perception of Harehills is before and after this, it is a place that is alive.

The hive of activity, say people we spoke to, in the street makes for a self-sufficient, self-funding and tight knit community.

Elaine Iggo moved to Harehills when she was 18 to help her friend who was a young mum at the time.

This YEP series highlights the stark differences within the city.

This YEP series highlights the stark differences within the city.

She said: “There has been a massive change in the last 15 years. There are more Eastern Europeans and there is the mosque, but I get the sense that it is a really tight community. Families and everyone seems to stick together.

“People might drive past and think it is not a nice place to live but I feel safer walking down the street in Harehills than I would in Gipton.

Community

“There is a strong work ethic, the shops are local and the older people opened them to make an income for themselves. There are a lot of families though, on low incomes, and you can see that.”

Her sentiment is echoed by Mahmood Hussain, 60, the owner of the family run Bexley Carpet Shop, which has been trading on Harehills Road for 40 years.

He said things had changed a lot over the years, such as people moving out of the area and new people coming in, as well as there being more rented properties now than there used to be.

How men and women fare for life expectancy in Harewood and Harehills.

How men and women fare for life expectancy in Harewood and Harehills.

But on the flip side, he says, that provides him with business and the variety of shops provide residents with what they need day to day, so they stay local and create the community.

Survival

However, the dense population, another local tells us, is also creating problems whether that be different nationalities clashing or overcrowding in houses. We heard there are up to 10 people living in back to back houses and mattresses on bathroom floors as there is no other room in the house.

A five bedroomed end of terrace is for sale at a guide price of £172, 995 and a three bed terrace going to auction has a starting price of £55,000 - more than £200, 000 cheaper than its Harewood equivalent.

You could also rent a tiny room in a house share for £60 a week here. In comparison, there are no properties available for private rent on Rightmove for Harewood and the waiting list for council property can be five years.

One man added: “A lot of people are on low or no income, people do what they have to do to get money and that increases the crime rate.”

It was crime that led Miss Igoo back to Harehills, where she is getting her life back on track after serving a prison sentence at HMP ASkham Grange for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

Commment

However, it is a social enterprise project, Shine, on Harehills Road that gave her (and several other low risk women offenders) a kickstart when she left prison in March and now her eight year old son is back living with her after being cared for by her parents while she was inside.

Ms Iggo calls it a “lifeline”.

She said: “I was forced into it (crime) but I have always worked, even when all that was going on.

“I started volunteering here when I was in prison and saw it as an opportunity to put my all into it to try and get something out of it and I did - they offered me a job. It is so hard to get a job with a criminal record but they gave me a chance and that is really good for me. It shows that there is opportunity but you would not think this was here because of the area.

“I am on a tag and needed an address quite fast, that was local and low rent. A lot of people don’t have a choice to not live here. It has definitely changed, even in the year that I was in prison. There are a lot more Eastern Europeans, that is not a bad thing, it just shows how much things change.

“There are worse places to be fair.”