Bench blocking measures deemed “appalling” by Leeds homeless charity

Last Thursday a young woman was found dead in the early hours of the morning in the doorway of House of Fraser – prompting calls for more action to help the homeless.

By Liam Graves- Pattison and Katie Garrett 

flowers and candles outside of House of Fraser

Bouquet of flowers and candles lay outside House of Fraser store in Briggate in memory of rough sleeper

A homeless charity has today called on Leeds Council to do more to help rough sleepers around the city.

The charity Homeless Support Street Kitchen has described anti homeless bars on benches in Leeds as “appalling”.

Officially there are 33 known rough sleepers in Leeds, but it’s believed the problem is much larger than this.

Throughout the city, measures are in place to prevent rough sleepers lying on public benches and in bus stops. So-called bench blockers make it impossible for anyone to rest on them, forcing homeless people to sleep outside of shops and in doorways.

final pic 1

partitioned bench in leeds city center

Leeds City Council have put in place partitions on benches to deter people sleeping rough directing them to shelters or forcing them to sit outside shops

Last week a woman in a wheelchair was found dead outside Briggate department store House of Fraser.

So what is the council’s motive is and are they are trying to help direct homeless people towards shelters or just trying to clean up the city?

Leeds City Council’s Executive Member for Communities, Councillor Debra Coupar, has released a statement describing last week’s event as “heart-breaking”,  saying how the authority hopes to support homeless people.

“The council works with a range of partners across the city to prevent homelessness and support those who are homeless or sleeping rough. Support is available to everyone that chooses to accept it.

“We can’t force people to take up support, but we’re are working hard to better understand why people choose not to access the support available – which includes complex challenges such as addiction, mental health, and social care needs.

“Within the last 12 months we have introduced our Street Support Team initiative and our Housing First Policy to support and safeguard all those who choose to rough sleep, beg or are homeless in our city. We work with a broad range of people and organisations across the city to put in place the most appropriate support and intervention.”

Numerous charities work to tackle the issue of homelessness, offering support and shelter to people found without a home and sleeping rough on the streets.

David Headley, who runs Homeless Support Street Kitchen has been working since 2015 to try to help people get off the streets and provide shelter to those who are looking for it.

Aiming to reduce the number of people living on the streets in Leeds, David said he did not support the measures the council has put in place, but does acknowledge what the council is trying to do. “I think the bench blocker measures are appalling. At the end of the day these people need shelter, but I do think it is in some aspects to guide them to shelters rather than keeping them on the streets.”







About the Author

This article was produced by a student or students on the BA in Journalism at Leeds Beckett University.

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