In this last post of our series of articles about homelessness, we look at what you and I can do about the problem.
There are great local and national charities and groups working and campaigning with the homeless community, who need our financial support (via direct giving, or joining fundraising events). National bodies include: Shelter, Crisis, and Centrepoint. Local bodies include: Homeless Leeds Support, Simon on the Streets, Homeless Street Angels, Lighthouse, the Leeds Homeless Partnership, Community Kitchen, St Anne’s, and St George’s Crypt; full info at bigchangeleeds.co.uk.
Many of these local organisations also welcome non-cash items, including: food and drink; sleeping bags, tents and camping kit; clothes; and toiletries. Please check with the organisations before donating.
Many of these organisations are heavily reliant on volunteers; get in touch with them to find out about getting involved.
People who are or have been street homeless consistently relay that the kindness of strangers is a crucial lifeline when you’re down and out. Take time to talk with people who are homeless, hear their stories, share food and drink with them, look out for them, and ask if you can support them. Most organisations advise against giving cash to people begging.
Write to our MP Hilary Benn, express your concerns about the growing homelessness crisis, and work with him and others for a fair and more compassionate political landscape.
To report concerns about the welfare of anyone on the street ring: (0113) 245 9445 or email: leeds.SOS@cgl.org.uk
If you are at risk of becoming homeless, contact Leeds Housing Options ring: (0113) 222 4412 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
What We Think: House the homeless
In this issue we have highlighted much good work that is going on in the city to help people living on the streets. We’ve also reported on schemes to improve older housing and to build new council houses.
It’s good, but is it enough?
Most people in South Leeds are just two missed pay packets away from losing their home. Sickness, an accident, a relationship breaking down – very simple life events can push you over the edge. As Dean says on page 6: “There but for the Grace of God…”
We used to have a safety net for such things – it was called social housing. Councils and housing associations built and let homes to people in need. The security of a home allowed people to rebuild their lives. They might stay, helping to create stable communities, or they might move on freeing up the home for someone else in need.
Since the 1980s social housing has been decimated. Tenants were offered the Right To Buy with a big discount, but Councils were not allowed to build new homes. The housing shortage has been growing year on year and now social housing is seen a scarce resource that must be rationed.
The answer is very simple. We need a massive building programme of new social housing. And there’s never been a better time to do it – interest rates are at an all time low. Once you see housing as an investment, rather than a cost borrowing to build is a no brainer.
A building programme would also create jobs and building in green standards would help reduce the country’s carbon footprint.
Unfortuately the present government are only interested in the private sector, where houses really are a commodity. The market says don’t build too many because that will push the price down and reduce your profits.
Photo: Simon On The Streets provide support to rough sleepers in Leeds