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Charity reveals shocking scale of hidden homelessness in Harrogate

Survey shows local residents are unaware there is a problem in their area.

A Harrogate-based charity has today released figures that show the staggering scale of homelessness in the district. Harrogate Homeless Project says that in the past 12 months it has had more than 150 referrals to its new homelessness scheme, No Second Night Out, far many more than it had originally anticipated.

A survey conducted by the charity, however, shows that awareness of the problem is low among local residents. A fifth (20 per cent) said they don’t think there is a problem with homelessness in their area and a further 44 per cent said they think there is only a small problem.

The survey of nearly 150 people from across the Harrogate district also revealed that, despite many thinking there isn’t a problem in the area, almost half (48 per cent) have seen someone sleeping rough locally. More than half (56 per cent) think that the council has a legal responsibility to find housing for people who are homeless but, with strict eligibility criteria and support awarded on the basis of ‘priority need’, many people sleeping rough don’t qualify for support.

Harrogate Homeless Project was chosen last year as one of 18 towns and cities in England to roll out No Second Night Out, a programme designed to intervene as soon as someone finds themselves homeless. The scheme was launched in Harrogate on 1 October 2012. It provides an emergency service, working with other agencies to support the person into sustainable accommodation, reconnect them with family or friends and help them find employment. It has been so successful that eight local authorities have this week announced that they are rolling the scheme out across North Yorkshire.

Andy Kirk, Transition Fund Project Leader at Harrogate Homeless Project, said:

Harrogate has a hidden homeless problem. Even we have been surprised by the number of people coming through the door. You might not see people sleeping on the streets but there are people sleeping rough in fields, in their cars and in local parks. And it isn’t always what it seems. Many people become homeless after a relationship breakdown, redundancy or are just struggling in these difficult times. All it can take is a run of bad luck.

One of the key elements of the No Second Night Out scheme is a phone number that people can call if they see someone sleeping rough. When they get the call, Harrogate Homeless Project will send someone out to assess the person straight away and start the process of arranging emergency accommodation. Since launching, Harrogate Homeless Project says it has worked well with local police, NHS and the council, who all refer people into the service. However it has had very few referrals so far from the public and is keen to raise awareness that it exists.

Andy said:

If you see someone sleeping rough, you can call us and make sure they get the right support straight away. Even if you aren’t sure that someone is homeless, or you worry you might be interfering, just call us and let us be the ones make that assessment. It costs you next to nothing and you can do it anonymously. One short phone call could change someone’s life.

Harrogate Homeless Project’s No Second Night Out team can be called 24 hours a day on 01423 566900.

  • 59 per cent of respondents believe they shouldn’t give money to people begging. 21 per cent didn’t have an opinion. No Second Night Out isn’t about supporting people who are homeless, it’s about putting a stop to homelessness. It isn’t about food packages and sleeping bags, it’s a comprehensive programme of support that stops people becoming long-term homeless.
  • Encouragingly, only 11 per cent think that most homeless people choose to live on the streets. Most (80 per cent) recognise that anyone can become homeless. However, 18 per cent think that if someone is homeless, it’s probably their own fault. Homelessness isn’t always what it seems. Many people become homeless after a relationship breakdown, redundancy or are just struggling in these difficult times. All it can take is a run of bad luck.
  • 77 per cent think that homelessness is worse in bigger towns and cities. Harrogate Homeless Project was chosen as one a small number of sites for the initial roll-out of the No Second Night Out scheme because it reported high numbers of referrals locally.
  • 45 per cent of people think most homeless people are dependent on drugs or alcohol, 21 per cent think that most or many homeless people have a mental health problem and 37 per cent that homeless people usually come from disadvantaged backgrounds. While these factors can make someone more vulnerable to becoming homeless, not all homeless people fit these stereotypes.
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