Homelessness can take many forms, from people sleeping rough on the streets to ‘hidden homelessness’.
Often, the view people can have of someone who is homeless is of a person sleeping in a shop doorway or on park benches, but there are also huge numbers of people staying in temporary accommodation or sofa-surfing. This is the side of homelessness we might not see, but it can have just as devastating an impact on the lives of the people going through it. Those with mental health issues and/or addiction issues are sometimes the most vulnerable.
As in other UK towns and cities, Leeds has many people without a place to call home, a place of safety or a place of permanence. Statistics have shown that the actual number of homeless people in West Yorkshire has risen and more people are without a place to call home.
Support is out there for people wanting to make a positive change. Leeds City Council have given their support to new initiatives such as the Street Support service, and changes in Government legislation, such as the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act in 2017 is a positive step forward. Charities such as Emmaus Leeds, St Anne’s, Simon On The Streets and St George’s Crypt work hard to support the most vulnerable in our city alongside many other organisations.
The wider business community, arts and creative sectors and educational institutes also play an important role in supporting homelessness initiatives across the city. Many agencies have signed up to the Leeds Homeless Charter, which, whilst not binding, pulls together resources and looks to agree a way forward to helping those people in need.
There are many misconceptions about why people find themselves homeless and the wider issues connected to homelessness. Emmaus UK has found that 33 per cent of formerly homeless people at the charity found themselves homeless through relationship breakdown. Homelessness can affect anyone but there is more chance of it happening when the safety net of support is not there.
Each person has a different story to tell and a different set of circumstances that has contributed to them becoming homeless. By working together, individuals and organisations can give people the support they need and the opportunity to rebuild their lives. Once this opportunity is grasped, individuals can feel empowered to develop their own resilience and confidence to break the negative cycle of homelessness.