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.

Reflection, Council Reporting

I enjoyed the session on council reporting, we got a good insight into how councils are made up, the various levels and what roles each type of council fill.

We learnt about the differences between County Councils, District, Borough and City Councils and Parish and Town Councils and what services they each provide like bin collection, council housing, libraries, homeless services and roads etc…

It was interesting to find out about day-to-day running and policy and decision makers.

We spoke about each major party having its own ‘Group’ including offices and employing admin staff and policy researchers which was a bit of an eye-opener.

We also learnt that approximately a third of the council is elected every year and there are no elections every fourth year.

With councillors being democratically accountable to residents of the city and their ward and the overriding duty of councillors being to the whole community it got me thinking about some of the quite elitest attitude sometimes displayed by councillors towards the electorate, particularly that shown by a particular councillor in Hull City Centre when confronted by a lady about the lack of compassion shown for the homeless some months ago.

As a journalist I did very much agree with what the lady was saying particularly given my previous experiences in life, as a journalist I would have liked to push the councillor about what had been said but I was there to do another job so I had to remain professional throughout.

RICS Gives Major Design Award to Iconic Hull Bridge.

Hull’s iconic Scale Lane Bridge has achieved a ‘Highly Commended’ award at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Awards 2015.

The bridge, which is the first footbridge of its kind in the UK, received the recognition in the Design through Innovation category, which was won overall by Esholt Bio Energy Project in Bradford.

The awards recognize the talent and ingenuity of property professionals who create stunning properties and projects across Yorkshire and Humber

Hull City Council’s City Streetscene Manager Andy Burton received the award on behalf of the council and project partners Homes and Community Agency and architects McDowell + Benedetti.

Project Manager for the Homes and Communities Agency Jacquie Boulton was delighted with the award, she said, “The continuing success of the bridge highlights the impact that partnership working can have.

“This commendation recognizes the quality of the design and construction of this bridge which provides a valuable connection between the old town and the east bank of the River Hull.”

Manager of The Lion and Key pub Christina Fleming also spoke about the connection the bridge provides, she said, “There’s been much more footfall here since it opened.

“Our regulars come in more often than they used to because of the direct link, rather than having to walk all the way round and quite a few people come just to see the bridge in action on a weekend.”

The bridge creates a unique pedestrian route between the city’s museums in the historic old town and The Deep as well as accommodating river traffic and being the only moving bridge in the UK that people can stay on as it moves.

Hull City Council operates the bridge every Saturday and Sunday for residents and visitors to enjoy, in addition to the movement for river traffic.

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Dean Kirk and Hull Red Labour- Council story

Former Labour party Councillor Dean Kirk says his new Hull Red Labour party will be vocal in the council chamber, through their only representative Gill Kennett, and in the local area.

Mr Kirk, formerly the councillor for Derringham ward for the ruling Labour party, stood in Myton Ward this time, a ward where he has been a resident for 20 years.

He said he and Ms Kennett set up the party due to their opposition to austerity cuts being forced on Hull City Council by the Conservative led government last year, opposition which led to them being suspended.

He confirmed that Coun Shaun Moody and Coun Dermot Rathbone and Jan Hornby are all defecting from the Labour party to join Hull Red Labour saying they have five candidates now and will have a sixth in time for the local elections in May 2016.

Their main objective is to fight against austerity and to provide a voice of opposition moving forward.

Mr Kirk said: “We think the Labour run council has just rolled over and accepted the Tory governments cuts without a fight.

“We will be the REAL Labour party.”

Saying the last election was about building a platform he said he was quite pleased with the amount of votes they received, although he did say some people had been in touch since to say they voted for the wrong Labour party by mistake which cost them hundreds of votes.

Mr Kirk also said: “I believe councils shouldn’t sit on pots of money for a rainy day.

“The Labour run Hull City Council has a reserve of £11M that they’re not doing anything with, that money needs spending on services and jobs, not just left in the background waiting for a rainy day.”

Mr Kirk, who is still a governor at Rise Academy and Pearson Primary school, says he will continue to support homeless people in the area and make people aware of Hull Red Labour.

He also said there will be leaflets being posted through letter boxes in the coming weeks and months as they gear up for the next election.

Poll Shows People Not Voting For Different Reasons

Hyperfruit has been conducting a poll in Hull City Centre about the upcoming vote on 7 May.

Of the people who answered the question whether they will vote or not most people said yes they will be voting but several people also gave differing reasons as to why they won’t be heading to their polling station next Thursday.

Potential first time voter Chloe Anderson was one of those who said she won’t be voting, Miss Anderson said, “I just think the campaign has been quite flat so I don’t see the point in voting.”

Kath Brown was of the opinion that she will be voting because people couldn’t really complain about whatever the new government do if they don’t vote.

On the other hand Hillary Walker said she hasn’t bothered to register to vote.

Tough Times in City Centre According to Independent Businessman- News story

Hull trader Van McIntyre claims times are tough because a drain of businesses away from the city centre has had a devastating effect on trade.

Mr McIntyre who owns Chapel Street News said there are too many empty units in the area around his shop, Jameson Street and Paragon Street which has put people off visiting the town centre.

He also expects some disruption because of the regeneration work which has recently started for the 2017 City of Culture events.

Even the opening of a new Sainsbury’s has had a double edged impact on independent traders in the immediate vicinity.

Mr McIntyre said: “It could be seen as an advantage and a disadvantage because it brings a bit more trade to this area but also they sell everything that we sell like Lottery and confectionary.

“We don’t mind the competition but when there’s a large concentration of similar units in a small area it doesn’t help anyone.”

Asked about the regeneration work, and its effect on his business Mr McIntyre blamed the council for a lack of work on the pavements and roads in the area over the years which has also put people off visiting.

Coun Martin Mancey has recently said that Hull BID have a very important part to play in the consultation between the council and local businesses but Mr McIntyre says not all city centre businesses agree with the work Hull BID do.

“We would probably prefer more direct consultation from the council,” said Mr McIntyre: “As businesses we need to know more about what’s going on and that way hopefully we can minimize any disruption.”

Whilst expecting the events in 2017 will increase footfall and, therefore business, he also believes it needs more investment to bring more people back to the city centre.

Mr McIntyre also said it’s a concern that Pizza Hut and Starbucks have recently left the area.

“There’s no eating areas which, for a city centre of this size, is very poor fayre, we’ve lost Pizza Hut and Starbucks and there’s a genuine lack of eating places anyway,” Said Mr McIntyre.

Planning Department Causing Problem With 1am Licence Proposal

Riddler’s bar owner Karl Jeffery says a loophole in their planning consent is unfairly stopping him and his son Alex Jeffery from opening until 1am.

In a frank interview Karl Jeffery said: “The Planners say we cannot let anybody in after 11pm, but if we have anybody in here before then and they decide to stay until 1am that’s fine.

“The Purple Pig has a 2am licence and yet the council are allowing residential flats to be built next door to it and there’s flats due to go over the Lizard Lounge which trades until 4 o clock in the morning.

Karl also said he had spoken to one resident who thought they wanted a 3am licence and assured him that this isn’t the case.

Alex Jeffery, who is the actual landlord, also said they just want a licence to trade until 1am and then have the place empty by 1:30.

Karl Jeffery repeatedly said: “We’ll make sure we’re not a problem to anybody, if any of the residents have any problem they can come and talk to me any time and we’ll take any necessary action,”20150305_13234320150305_132232

Secretary of State Promises Urgent Exploration of Castle Street Improvements Issues!

Hull West and Hessle MP Alan Johnson has met with Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin MP about the timing of improvements to the A63 Castle Street.

The plans for the overall scheme have, in Mr Johnson’s words, serious technical problems to overcome, but it is hoped that an iconic footbridge linking the City Centre to the Marina and waterfront, can be constructed in time for 2017.

“He was receptive to our suggestion that, if necessary, the construction of the bridge could be progressed separately and in advance of the road improvement scheme. He undertook to explore this possibility with his officials as a matter of urgency and to write to me within the next fortnight to inform me of the outcome,” Said Mr Johnson.

Councillor Martin Mancey, Hull City Council cabinet member responsible for transport infrastructure, was also at the meeting in London.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure that this footbridge is ready for all the additional visitors we expect during our year as City of Culture and to make sure that the government fully understands the need for the wider Castle Street improvements, which are essential for the future growth of the city.

“We will continue to press the Secretary of State, the Department for Transport and the Highways Agency to deliver this vital project on time,” Said Councillor Mancey.

Sanction Now, Ask Questions Later

Sanction Now, Ask Questions Later Attitude Leaving More People Homeless!

More and more people are being left homeless because of having their benefits sanctioned for petty reasons according to Hull East MP Karl Turner and staff at The Warren in Hull City Centre.

“People are being left without benefits because they’re being sanctioned for the most petty reasons since this government came in,” Said Mr Turner.

Attending a public meeting hosted by JJ Tatten, manager, at The Warren Mr Turner was given many tales of woe by young benefit claimants who have either had, or been threatened with, benefits sanctions.

Reasons for sanctions being imposed included, being at a funeral, being at job interviews, being on work placements, one young lady even got sanctioned because she failed to sign on when she went into labour at the job centre.

Christian Wilding and Craig McDade also had their benefits sanctioned and ended up having to ask for financial support elsewhere until their benefits were reinstated.

Other people at the meeting told about how it takes four weeks for an application for hardship payments to go through and, until then, they don’t have any money for food or paying bills.

Another knock on effect of having benefits sanctioned means that the persons housing and council tax benefit is also removed automatically so they are left owing massive rent arrears which then results in eviction.

Hardship payments also vary between benefits, a person claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) gets £28 a week on hardship whilst a person on Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) gets £35 a week.

Before the start of the meeting Mr Tatten said he even knew of a case of a former soldier in his 60s having his benefits sanctioned because he was selling poppies for the Royal British Legion.

During the discussions Mr Turner said about how an MP for Wigan was having a debate in the House of Commons about benefits sanctions for petty reasons, like people being 2 or 3 minutes late to sign on, and the MP who was supposed to respond to her questions was actually 5 minutes late for the debate.

Counsellor Julie Chapman from The Warren said, “Sanctions on benefits are more frequent now, in fact they’ve more than doubled since this government came to power.

“Homelessness as a result of benefits sanctions has almost normalised now with lots of people now also sofa surfing

She also said, “Sanctions put a huge strain on families and impacts on mental health and also leads to food poverty,”

After the public meeting I attended a soup kitchen organised by Hull Homeless Outreach at St. Mary’s Church in Lowgate and spoke to Sarah Hemingway who volunteers there.

“Hull Homeless Outreach opened a food bank a few weeks ago and we feed 37 people on average there, at one point a woman turned up with four kids and her partner and they were expected to live on £38 a week.

She also said, “I want to know how many more austerity cuts are they going to agree on that could prevent a lot of this?”

In total 50 people came to the soup kitchen looking for food and drink.

Mr Turner also said, “We are trying to get some corporate sponsorship to keep Dock House open past the end of this month but I can’t promise anything yet,”

Asked why it is being forced to close again Mr Turner replied “Because central government has taken £150 Million away from the Hull City Council budget.

“Cameron’s Oxfordshire constituency has had a 2% rise in its funding, Hull has had a 10% cut in funding,” He continued.