Huddersfield Examiner crime reporter Robert Sutcliffe joined police and other organisations in Huddersfield as they tried to help people sleeping rough on Huddersfield’s streets
We had only walked a short distance from Huddersfield Police Station to the end of Albion Street before we came across our first rough sleeper.
He had been mentioned in our early morning briefing but there was something strangely disconcerting about seeing him laid out in his sleeping bag as Pc Scott Gardner and eight other social health workers gently converged on him in a bid to help.
Whether it was due to suddenly finding himself in the spotlight, surrounded by a gaggle of strangers, but whatever the reason, it didn’t take long before he meekly agreed to care manager Paula Loftus’s suggestion that he visit Clare House, Hillhouse, to have his needs assessed.
And it wasn’t long before other members of Huddersfield’s rough sleeping community were yielding themselves up for inspection.
Not all of them were so accommodating as the first one. Alan and Silva were blissfully curled up in their sleeping bags and not pleased to be aroused from their slumbers at 9.30am.
Eventually a distinctly ratty Sylvia pulled her pet pouch from her sleeping bag and stalked off while Alan joked that if he was brought a bag of heroin he would happily go wherever he was directed.
Sometimes it’s hard to understand where the supporters get their patience and stamina from.
Some of the rough sleepers’ problems are intractable, longstanding, involve multiple drug and mental health issues and complications are piled upon complications.
For example, in the morning briefing Pc Gardner referred to one woman saying she wouldn’t attend the housing placement for her because she had a dog.
When told that the dog could be accepted as long as it had a muzzle she said didn’t have money for a muzzle and joked that she would take crack cocaine instead of heroin to save money to buy one.
And it’s a hard balance for the police and agencies to balance the needs of sleepers against those of hard-pressed businessmen and women trying to make a living.
In colder times sleepers understandably want to be warm and seek the solace of air vents though not all shopkeepers appreciate the sight of them curled up against their vents.
And some business owners are apoplectic at having to deal with the intimidation from a minority of sleepers who they also fear put people using their premises.
One, who didn’t want to be named said he was “at the end of his tether” after two years of trading in close proximity to them.
He said they had urinated in his porch and threatened him verbally.