Feature Article Assignment

The amount of people becoming homeless has shot up in recent times, as confirmed by a recent Freedom of Information request to Hull City Council which saw the number of people registered as homeless in Hull go up from 65 in the previous quarter to 114 currently.

Unfortunately these are only the known cases, there will be many, many more who haven’t registered that will swell that disturbing number further along with the amount of ‘Hidden Homeless’ who are either sofa surfing or staying in hostels in the short term.

So what can a person do when they first become homeless and what help is available to them and what issues lead to them becoming homeless in the first place?

Reasons for becoming homeless range from suffering domestic violence, being given an eviction warrant, repossession notice or notice to quit, you’ve been living with friends or family and they have asked you to leave.

Other problems can include you have nowhere to live together with your family or you’ve moved from another area but have no connection to Hull like having no family here or you’ve just been released from prison.

But the main growing problem is that your benefits are sanctioned which then sees the withdrawal of housing and council tax benefit which leaves you with massive arrears which are impossible to pay.

When you become homeless in Hull your first port of call should be to The Wilson Centre on Alfred Gelder Street to make a homeless presentation to a homeless team advisor, if you have nowhere to stay that night report there before 1pm Monday to Friday.

Upon making your homeless presentation you are likely to be given priority if you are considered vulnerable because of old age or mental or physical disability.

You will also be given priority if you have a history of institutionalisation, for instance prison or hospitals, have left your home because of a threat of violence, if you’re pregnant or have children or if you’re 16 or 17 years old.

Rough sleeper Craig Lee Thompson says he became homeless after his benefits were sanctioned two years ago around the time his mum died, he was sofa surfing for about six months but has been sleeping rough ever since, he said: “I’m only band 3 with the council because of the rent arrears I owe from when my benefits were sanctioned, now I’m just expected to go without.

“I feel like I’m being criminalised for being homeless because police are constantly threatening to arrest me if I don’t move on from wherever I’m sat at the time.

“Hopefully I will get into a hostel at some point and then I can turn my life around and get back to how I used to be with some money coming in and relying on myself and not having to beg to feed myself.”

To be classed as a rough sleeper by Hull City Council a person has to be sleeping, about to bed down, either sitting or laying in or on, or standing next to their bedding or actually bedded down in the open air.

They are also classed as rough sleepers if they are in tents, doorways, parks, bus shelters or an encampment or in a building or other places not designed for habitation such as stairwells, barns, sheds, car parks, cars, derelict boats or stations.

However the definition does not include people in hostels or shelters, people in camp sites or other sites used for recreational purposes or organised protests, squatters or travellers.

When a person makes a homeless presentation they are sent to Humbercare for assessment at their new hostel Westbourne House on Westbourne Avenue and, depending on availability and situation they can be offered a bed there, if not they can be sent to their night shelter on Roper Street where criteria differs because each person has to queue there each evening in the hope of getting a temporary bed.

There is a further option during the winter months until the end of February because if Roper Street Hostel is full qualifying people will be given a ticket to take to the Hull Homeless and Rootless Project (Hull HARP) night shelter at Dock House.

From the help being offered at these places and others like The Crossings people will get the chance to get into more secure housing such as the Hull HARP Aspire project.

Hull HARP Outreach worker Louise Cramond said: “When anybody comes to stay here or if they access the day services like the breakfast club or the Tuesday chill-out we will work with them beyond that.

“We try and get them to engage with us and other service users and get them onto the move-on programme and offer them other help depending on their specific issues.”

Other help available includes an out-of-hours service which can be accessed by calling 01482 300304 and there is also a website Humber Help which aims to help co-ordinate information-sharing between all those whose lives are affected by the chaos of homelessness and the wide variety of local organisations that provide services of support to those in need.

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