The organisers of Leeds Tent City have begun a fundraising campaign to set up a shipping container village for the homeless in the city.
The organiser, Hayden Lee Jessop, is setting up the campaign for a new scheme to repurpose old containers as temporary living quarters for the homeless. This would be a first step to help them find permanent accommodation and help them liaise with other services such as mental help and addiction support.
In support of the campaign, Mr Jessop outlined that this will not be long-term housing. He continued: “I believe people need a stepping stone before they are given a house.”
At the moment, his organization is liaising with local businesses and registering for charitable status as ‘Vulnerable Citizen Support’, hoping to raise around £15,000 for its purpose.
The scheme follows the closure of a homeless camp of 20 tents in Little Queen Street. The ‘Tent City’ disbanded as the Leeds City Council provided more housing for rough sleepers. The organiser of the camp, Mr David Hedley, agreed that it had served its function.
This follows unrest in recent years about the conditions of rough sleepers in Leeds. In 2016, a protest bred a ‘Tent City’ of about sixty tents camped outside the Leeds Art Gallery in an attempt to focus attention on the number of homeless people in Leeds. The protest was then evicted off council property and moved to the International Pool car park.
LeedsLive reported last year that paramedics were called to Boar Lane, City Square and Wellington Street 163 times in just three months to deal with issues relating to homelessness, drugs and alcohol. Police were called to the city centre almost 200 times in two months to calls involving homeless people.
In response to this, the Council set up new initiatives such as the Safer Leeds Support Team and Big Change Leeds.
The aim of Safer Leeds Support Team is to “work with the most vulnerable street users to provide ongoing, tailored, wrap around, support to ensure they can move into accommodation where necessary and access appropriate services to enable them to move away from street life.”
Likewise, Big Change Leeds is a non-profit organisation that “connects local businesses, charities and people to coordinate and provide better help and support for vulnerable people on the streets of Leeds.”
Leeds City Councillor, Debra Coupar, stated:
“Around one in three of those rough sleeping in November’s count are known to have tenancies or other accommodation, yet they still feel the streets are the better option for them. We know we have enough accommodation for rough sleepers in Leeds, and it has tailored, ongoing recovery packages to support people to rebuild meaningful lives away from the streets. We cannot, of course, force people to take up this support.”