Tent City 'would keep people in poverty' says Sheffield homeless charity chief
The boss of a Sheffield homeless charity says well-meaning ideas such as the recent Tent City are actually making things worse for those they aim to help.
Cathedral Archer Project chief executive Tim Renshaw spoke out after Sheffield Council and the police evicted people staying in tents outside Park Hill Flats.
He highlighted the many issues surrounding homelessness, and said there were better ways to help than by bringing groups of rough sleepers together - an idea that would 'never work'.
“At the Cathedral Archer Project we have worked over many years with people who are homeless, including those sleeping rough," Mr Renshaw said.
"We are convinced that a single place for rough sleepers to meet and sleep at will never work.
"The reasons people become rough sleepers are complex but they include the need to get away from other people facing the same problems, to avoid being bullied or people they may owe money to, or even those they simply do not like.
"It may be a human response to set up a tent city but it is also straightforward human behaviour that means it isn’t the answer we need to address rough sleeping."
According the council, everyone staying at Tent City either had somewhere to stay, had left accommodation or had declined it. Everyone was asked if they needed further support.
The Cathedral Archer Project offers all sorts of help to people who find themselves homeless, from basic healthcare and food to employment training. The idea is to turn people's lives around permanently rather than offering short-term solutions.
Mr Renshaw said: “All the research around homelessness, and our own experience, shows that supporting people to overcome homelessness is a steady process of consistent support and understanding, with each individual setting their own goals and receiving the right support to meet them.
"A place to stay and exist like Tent City, regardless of good intentions, can, at best, only keep people in poverty. At worst it adds to a person’s deterioration and makes the well documented shorter life span of homeless people a reality.
“We want people to understand and help people who are homeless. At its simplest this is helping homeless people to engage with agencies and services that are proven to provide long-term answers.”
The council's cabinet member for housing Jayne Dunn said Tent City was not safe.
"We had real safeguarding concerns about the site and do not want it to attract vulnerable people who can get support and accommodation from established services," she added.
“Outreach workers from the council and local charities spent a lot of time at Tent City and, to the very best of our knowledge, everyone sleeping there either had somewhere to stay or had been offered accommodation.
“We will continue to offer support to anyone sleeping rough in Sheffield and ask that people contact us if they’re worried about someone.”
To contact the council's rough sleeper service call 0114 263 6964. A list of city charities working to help the homeless is at www.helpushelp.uk.
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