In a series of articles, journalist and volunteer, Oscar Hunt explores the themes of homelessness in and around Huddersfield.
Temperatures in Huddersfield have dropped below zero for three consecutive nights for the third time this year and these harsh conditions are naturally taking their toll on those living on the town’s streets.
Huddersfield, just like many other large towns, is witnessing first-hand the saddening reality of the country’s continually rising number of rough sleepers.
A recent study conducted by housing charity Shelter, found that 307,000 people are now either sleeping rough or in temporary accommodation across the UK.
However, here in Huddersfield, pride and community spirit rallies stronger than apathy. Charity Organisations such as One Big Family – Helping the Homeless have been set up by local people determined to instil change within their community.
The charity has been operating in Huddersfield for just over a year now and still continues to receive weekly donations from local people and businesses.
One Big Family also has branches in two other locations - Medway and London. The Huddersfield based branch has five volunteers who work hard to provide as much help as possible to those in need around Huddersfield and Kirklees.
Volunteers take to the streets for outreach nights every week. Items such as food, hot drinks, clothes, toiletries and other essentials are offered to rough sleepers and anyone who needs help.
A crucial aspect of these outreach nights is the time spent talking to people on the streets. People who, up until you’ve offered them a cup of coffee or a pair of gloves, you may have felt apprehensive about engaging with or may have even crossed the road to avoid.
But once that first barrier is broken down and conversation begins to flow you quickly realise they are no different to us. It’s within those first few interactions you start to notice how similarly their previous lives resemble that of our own. Then, suddenly, you realise the fragility of life.
As temperatures are set to remain below zero this week in Kirklees, volunteers are urging people to try to imagine what it would be like having to sleep on the streets in these conditions.
To make matters worse, the numbers of rough sleepers in Huddersfield, especially in the town centre, appears to be slowly rising. Many townsfolk have noticed a number of tents and mattresses cropping up in the doorways of closed shops.
To try and comprehensively deal with the problem of homelessness would be a near impossible task. However, a crucial element of support offered by volunteers at One Big Family is to signpost anyone seeking help, with the right contacts and necessary means to get off the streets.
Naturally, as some people are more determined to get off the streets than others, this can be a difficult task. Nonetheless, volunteers often work closely with individuals and other partnering organisations in order to help arrange benefits, housing and jobs for those seeking help. On many occasions these efforts have been successful and volunteers have been integral in arranging housing for rough sleepers.
The support provided by One Big Family is not solely restricted to rough sleepers, although a majority of the people seeking help are homeless. There are also many people who are inbetween accommodation, in temporary accommodation or suffering from mental, physical or drug based problems.
The cornerstone of One Big Family’s ethos is no-one who is seeking a helping hand will be turned away.
In the meantime, One Big Family – Helping the Homeless need donations such as sleeping bags, hats, gloves, thermal clothing, underwear, socks, toiletries and non-perishable snacks, such as Pot Noodles.
Contact email@example.com if you wish to arrange a donation.
In the next feature Oscar will closely examine some of the factors that push people into a life on the streets.