Tent City packed down as Leeds homelessness protest comes to an end

CAMPAIGNERS and volunteers have ended the Tent City protest which has been taking place in Leeds for almost three weeks.

Wednesday, 12th October 2016, 8:16 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 8:55 pm
Garry Mackintosh and Haydn Jessop at the original Tent City site in Victoria Gardens.

The group, which became known as Leeds Voice for the Homeless, started out by pitching 15 tents outside the city’s art gallery in Victoria Gardens on September 21.

The aims were to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness and influence new council policy, while offering rough sleepers a ‘safe haven’.

Tents recovered from the Leeds Festival site in August were used by campaigners and rough sleepers, who were invited from the all over the city to join the camp.

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Tent City residents at the second camp in Park Square Gardens celebrating the news that a new site had been agreed for six weeks. Picture: Dean Michaels Photography.

At one stage the group said it was giving shelter to up to 50 people, although Leeds City Council maintained throughout the protest that there was no need for anyone to sleep rough in the city.

Volunteer Simon Rickles said: “I just hope that Leeds City Council now realise that the public want the homeless to be given help and supported accommodation, not hidden away, excluded from the city centre and buried in statistics.

“People find themselves on the street every week and the council needs to offer people help, not only to avoid losing their home but to get off the streets as quickly as possible, and stay safe while they’re on them.”

The group this morning said that its volunteers had packed down from their fourth site in Calverley Street on Monday.

Tent City residents at the second camp in Park Square Gardens celebrating the news that a new site had been agreed for six weeks. Picture: Dean Michaels Photography.

The courts had previously granted possession orders to the city council so that the camp could be cleared from Victoria Gardens and, later, Park Square Gardens.

It was then that the council said the camp could use the old Leeds International Pool site for up to six weeks without fear of eviction, while council officers assessed all those staying on the site for housing.

But the group left the site and moved onto the university’s land after four people were assaulted during an incident last week.

Leeds Voice for the Homeless said 19 homeless people had secured permanent housing and a further 12 now had temporary accommmodation while council continued to seek a permanent home for them.

It said this represented “by far the majority of the homeless from the camp” and its volunteers would be continuing to support those people recently homed.

The focus of the group’s efforts will now return to its regular street kitchens and outreach work with the homeless.