Homeless but not helpless

IMG_3777By Harry Daynes, Natalia Bolechowska and Cherelle Cawthorn

Homelessness in Leicester has become a major issue in recent years; in November 2011 there was 53 rough sleepers, the highest figure outside of London.

There is a conflicting debate between Leicestershire Council and the homeless network as to how much support is available to the homeless.

One 37-year old man named Peter became homeless when his business went under, he was unable to repay his mortgage and faced repossession.

He said: “[Leicester council] keep closing the hostels in Leicestershire and the more hostels they close the harder it is for homeless people to get rooms. It’s not ideal but there’s not a lot you can do. You’ve just got to do the best you can with what you’ve got.”

Walking through the streets of Leicester it is clear that there is an issue regarding the number of homeless people.

However, included in Leicester city council’s principles of their homelessness service they claim that anyone who is at risk of becoming homeless will be given advice and support to prevent this, wherever possible.

Despite this principle, support is not always available for those with certain circumstances.

Peter said: “I’m waiting for a room to become available at The Dawn Centre but because I’ve got a dog, they’ve only got a selected amount of rooms with kennels as they’re full.

“My children know I’ve gone through a hard time but they don’t know the extent of it, I try and stay in Bed and Breakfasts’ when I can but obviously that depends on members of the public and how generous they are.”

Leicester council claim that their homeless service costs £4.49 million per year but more funding is always needed.

One of the many events that raise awareness and funds towards homeless charities, such as Action Homeless, is the DeMontfort University Sleep-out in which students sleep on the steps of their student union overnight to raise sponsorship.

Although the feeling amongst the homeless is that the council and the government are not doing enough, a city council spokesperson said: “We always offer support to people who come to us in need of accommodation. They would get a full assessment of need from us, so that we can help them not just with housing, but with other problems they may be experiencing.

“We often support people to return to their previous accommodation, if it is safe and practical for them to do so. We also help people to start their own tenancies, and we have 85 units offering specialist accommodation with additional support with education, employment or learning to live independently.

“Our aim is to prevent homelessness, but we do also have plans in place to help anyone who finds themselves without a home, so that no-one need sleep rough in the city.”

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