Bringing comfort to the homeless

By Miren Hurtado
Story published in Dewsbury Reporter on 19 February 2010
Images: Dewsbury Reporter

Since last September, 13 people who were sleeping on the streets have been helped into safe accommodation through a Kirklees Council project. MIREN HURTADO spoke to the man who helped them – housing officer Ian Brooke, as well as one of the people he helped find a home.

2010_02_21_Bringing comfort to the homeless_Housing officer Ian Brooke
Image: Housing officer Ian Brooke.

When most people are tucked-up in bed beneath their duvets, Ian Brooke is walking the streets looking for people who have spent the night in doorways, with little more than a sleeping bag to keep them warm.

Ian, a Kirklees housing options and advice officer, works with homeless people across Kirklees. He moves them into temporary accommodation and helps support them with alcohol and drugs related problems. He said: “I go out to find people bedding down at about 7:30am. It is too late by 8am. They move on, they do not want to be disturbed by members of the public.

If people do not want to be helped I just leave a letter with information to contact me.”

People are often willing to be supported, but sometimes they reject authority. Ian said: “Some people have had bad experiences with authority and do not want to engage with us, it is quite a long process to get someone’s trust.”

Addiction is one of the main reasons people become rough sleepers.

They spend money on their addiction and they struggle to pay bills because of it. These problems cause terrible family upsetsIn some cases, they have been evicted, they do not have family or they have been with friends prior to sleeping rough. Being on the streets does not help an addiction problem.

One of the methods some people use to get to sleep is to drink alcohol. It is very difficult to get out of that vicious circle. Access to support is the first steps to sort out their addiction problems.”

Ian works with Lifeline, a drug and alcohol addiction centre, as well as Huddersfield Methodist Mission and Dewsbury homeless support organisations, Daybreak and Care Dewsbury.

Care Dewsbury manager Brian Taylor said: “Care Dewsbury started from the churches together meetings. The Minster was taking in homeless people on a daily basis but it could only afford to have them in for a couple of hours.

There was a need for a place where they could come in, go on the computers, have a decent meal and talk as long as they want.”

Brian said the risks of sleeping rough included hypothermia and being attacked, robbed and urinated on.

This year the Mayor of Kirklees Coun Julie Stewart-Turner has chosen Care Dewsbury and Daybreak as her annual charities. She said Ian and the voluntary groups were doing a great job by supporting and helping the most vulnerable people off the streets.

She added: “The increasing number of homeless people is very frustrating. They are in a really difficult situation so that is why it is essential that they have someone to go to for help. It is a challenge to help these people.”

Hope for man reduced to living in a cave

2010_02_21_Bringing comfort to the homeless_Jason Lee Homeless

After three months sleeping rough in a cave, Jason Lee was helped into his own home by Care Dewsbury and Ian Brooke. Jason, 32, said: “I spent six days in jail for a petty crime. When I came out, I had no money, I had no place to go, so I headed for the caves up at Caulms Wood, above Crackenedge Lane.

“I found myself a hole in the ground and I spent a good one or two months down there. It used to be as a drug den for homeless people. It was cold and damp, I had no mattress and I was sleeping on sheet on the floor with my coat over me. It was the easiest option but in the end, I was getting too cold. I was sick of it and I suffered from depression.”

In desperation, Jason got in touch with Care Dewsbury manager Brian Taylor, who visited the cellar where Jason was living. Jason said: “I asked Brian to help and he told Ian about my situation. Ian did not believe where I said I was living at first, so I took him to see.”

Ian put Jason in touch with Kirklees Housing Options scheme, which helps homeless people. Jason said: “I told them I could not cope anymore and my health was going to go downhill. I was suffering from cold and depression. So they found a proper home for me.”

Now Jason is off the streets and is planning to open a tattoo shop with his uncle.

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