Homeless people in Huddersfield get a regular helping hand, as reporter KATIE GRANT discovers
MARCUS Latice has been sleeping rough on the streets of Huddersfield ever since his partner died two years ago at Christmas.
Some evenings he manages to bed down on a friend’s sofa for the night – but on other occasions he resigns himself to another cold night alone on the streets.
On Wednesday night – long after the traders on the open market had packed up and gone home – Marcus was in the wind and rain-battered town centre.
The Batley man was there to meet outreach workers from homeless charity, Simon on the Streets, for a hot drink and a chat.
“I come here because they give me a hot drink and some soup,” he told the Examiner.
“I sleep much better when I’ve got something hot in my belly.
“Ever since my partner died I’ve never found anywhere permanent to stay.
“Sometimes I stay with friends but that’s never a permanent thing, sometimes I might fall out with them or there’s a problem or the council say I can’t stay there because of single occupancy rules. So I’m left on the streets for a night.
“These guys are a brilliant help, they are going to help me with housing and sleeping bags and blankets.
“It’s not so bad, there are people much worse off than me – there’s always someone worse off.”
Marcus might only be there for a hot mug of tea and some soup.
But the charity say what they are doing is a whole lot more than simply doling out soup and blankets.
The charity’s director Clive Sandle told the Examiner that the soup – poured from flasks and served with a bread roll – is merely the first step in establishing a relationship with the rough sleepers.
He said: “Actually, we have no interest in giving them soup. The soup is more about encouraging them to come and meet with us so that we can engage with them.
“I guess what we’re trying to achieve is creating relationships with a specific kind of person – those out there in homelessness circles who cannot or won’t access services for whatever reason.”
Simon on the Streets has one full-time outreach worker in Huddersfield, one part-time worker and a handful of volunteers. They also do outreach work in Leeds and Bradford.
Clive, who was a recruitment consultant before setting up the Leeds-based charity, said: “Most of the people who we work with have got pretty traumatic pasts that have been going on since they were kids.
“They have emotions and thoughts and feelings that they cannot deal with and they find themselves in a downward spiral.
“This can often lead to alcohol or substance abuse – I’d say it is one of the most prevalent problems.
“Huddersfield’s homeless have got more problems with alcohol, whereas there’s more of a narcotics problem in Leeds and Bradford.”
Simon on the Streets works with people who have lost their links to society and for various reasons do not feel they can access support services such as housing benefits and income support. Clive said: “Although there are some great services out there a lot of guys say they don’t have any trust in them.
“They don’t access support for whatever reason and often throw it back in people’s faces.
“People spend a lot of time wagging fingers in their faces and telling them what to do and what they’ve done wrong and telling them they need to get some motivation.
“But there’s no such thing as a motivation fairy that’s going to come along and solve everything.
“They are often mistrustful of people because they have been abandoned or let down in the past and think support workers are just doing their jobs and don’t really care about them.”
The charity’s aim is to build a relationship with homeless people and help connect them with services.
“When we get to the point where we think that someone fits the criteria and we’ve built a relationship with them then we talk to them about what areas of their life they would like to change and see if we can help.”
The average life span of a man living on the streets is 47 and the average life span of a woman is 43, according to homeless charity Crisis.
Clive said the majority of homeless people in Huddersfield are men, aged between late 20s and early 40s.
It’s unclear how many people are regularly sleeping rough.
Simon on the Streets do a soup-run every Wednesday evening from 8.30pm in the town centre.
Volunteer Nicola Hamilton, from Cowlersley, said in the lead-up to Christmas there were some 15 homeless people who met them in the market area one evening.
She said: “I think it must have been the time of the year – I think Christmas must be a very hard time for them.
“It’s also got very cold and lots of people have been asking for gloves.
“I’ve only been volunteering since November but it has been very interesting.
“I think homelessness is often overlooked in the towns – everyone thinks it just happens in London.”
Soup and bread is provided each week by the Cedar Court Hotel at Ainley top. Homeless people hear about the service by word of mouth.
For more information visit www.simononthestreets.co.uk
HUDDERSFIELD Methodist Mission has been “overwhelmed” by offers from people to help them provide a warm sanctuary in the evenings this winter.
Since the Mission Cafe decided to open its doors in the evenings from Monday to Friday, starting in January, organisers have been inundated with offers of help.
More than 70 volunteers have come forward, many of them from local churches, to help cook and serve food and drinks.
Members of the Sikh community have also stepped forward. They will be cooking a curry once a week for visitors to the cafe.
The decision to open the cafe in the evenings follows the disappointment of not being able to set up a winter shelter in Huddersfield for the homeless in time for this winter.
However, the group which is working on this project, comprised mainly of representatives from many churches, is hopeful that one will be in place for next winter.
Mission Cafe project manager Jacqui Goff said that she was “over the moon” at the response from the public. She stressed that the cafe, which will provide a warm place to enjoy food, drink, company and newspapers, is not just for the homeless.
She said: “The cafe will be open for anybody who wants a warm place and some company in the evenings.
“We have not been able to provide a winter shelter this year, but we are working with the churches to do just that.
“In the meantime, we will open the cafe in the evening and see how it goes. It is not just for people in crisis, the cafe will be open for absolutely anybody. It is simply a warm, accessible place for people to spend the evening. ”
Members of the Springwood Sikh temple will be providing the food once a week at the cafe. On the menu will be vegetable and lentil curries, rice pudding and yoghurt.
Kartar Singh Kathuria, president of the temple, said: “We wanted to help with this project. Helping the needy and the homeless is a part of our belief.”
Inderpal Singh Randhawa, leader of the Sikh community, added: “We are prepared to support anybody who is in need, regardless of creed or colour. It is a difficult time of year for some people who have no homes or families to go to. Others may have no money to keep their home warm.
“The cafe will be a good place for people to come in the evenings.”
Starting on Monday, January 9, the Mission Cafe will be open from 6pm to 10pm every Monday to Friday until Friday, March 2.