Just 6 days before Christmas and on an evening where the council’s SWEP is still active – a rough sleeper in the town seeks shelter in the doorway of the housing options building after being told effectively there is no room at the inn for him.
A source from inside the Street Angels Emergency Bed unit which is the SWEP Facilitation provider for Blackpool Council admitted that the unit was full of people waiting for housing on the council’s list – the aim of the unit is to help people keep appointments with advisers in the building but has a limited capacity.
In comments on his facebook page (which we have saved for reference if required.) it was suggested that Mark Butcher homelessness campaigner use funds that Amazing Graze has for it’s own charitable purposes in order to fulfil the councils obligation to look after rough sleepers in severe weather conditions. Mark serves as a board member for Amazing Graze and it is unlikely that such a decision could be made in the middle of the night so it is likely that mark has paid for this out of his own pocket tonight in our opinion.
Mark followed through on this suggestion and the chap in question is now in a BnB for the night nearby as you will have seen from the video above. We have set up a go fund me to help this chap and as many others as possible to get off the streets for christmas and as far beyond as possible. CLICK HERE if you would like to pledge help
The suggestion was posted as a comment on a status about the rough sleeper who he had learned of outside the Housing Options building from a member of united Blackpool earlier in the evening. United Blackpool are the outreach arm of amazing graze.
They provide a consistent point of contact on the streets in order to coach those who have lived on the streets for years to come back to society as well as keeping track of the new arrivals in town as Blackpool does attract a lot of rough sleepers from out of the area.
Amazing Graze is an independent charity and receives no funding from the council or any other official bodies but is being called upon to provide funding for emergency bed and breakfast accommodation because the Council’s emergency bed unit is full to capacity tonight.
The Street Angels are the Council’s appointed provider for the Emergency Bed Unit which opened just last week. Their first official test was the ongoing SWEP or severe weather emergency protocol which has previously been a temporary shelter in St. John’s Church in the Town Centre. The SWEP is available for all rough sleepers to attend as long as they get there before a certain time. Any Town Centre Banning orders are lifted for the wep however we have been given information that the town centre perimeter ends at chapel street meaning the facility has now been moved out of the town centre meaning the banning order in effect could still remain in place whilst still fulfilling the obligation.
We are currently awaiting a response as to the number of beds made available at the street angel’s facility and how many were occupied. We suspect the number is around 15.
We headed there on Sunday night on the second night of the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol to see for ourselves if everyone had been taken care of in the cold weather. We found the building to be locked secure with a hand written note on the door at the side of the building near enough tucked away down an alley. The note on the door indicated that it was on til 11 – there was no contact number or further instructions should anyone arrive later. This facility in it’s current form has been open just over a week. We are not aware that the council operate an outreach group in order to reach the people sleeping rough in the town but if we find out other wise we will amend this line.
It didn’t take us long to find a young man sat outside south shore McDonalds after a brief shower of sleet waiting for someone to throw favour his way.
We stopped and had a chat with the young man who was sleeping rough in Blackpool to be closer to where his children are now – he had come from Hartlepool more than 7 months ago as a single man looking for work with a few quid in his pocket to see him over a few weeks but it didn’t last long and he soon ended up on the street.
He had met another girl sleeping rough in the town and was now in a relationship with her – she was a little way up the promenade at the velvet coaster again waiting for favour from patrons exiting the building – she was sat on the kerb wearing a wooly sheep onsie among many other layers of clothes to keep her shielded from the bitter cold. The in car thermometer was showing 2 degrees at 11pm when we met this young lady. We had been given her name so that we could deliver her some food and a message from her partner about returning to their “hidey hole” as he described it.
We asked the young lass why she wasn’t at the Council facility for rough sleepers and she replied (recorded audio on camera) that most of the people using the facility there use needles and she doesn’t feel safe sleeping around those types of people in a shared space. We asked if they had used any of the other services in the town and they claimed to have used the facilities at Amazing Graze when it was at north shore but wasn’t aware it had moved to Bolton Street – which indicates that either old information is going round about the location of amazing graze – or they had been on the streets longer than they would be willing to admit and had maybe recently moved back to the town.
The girl we spoke to would be barely 20 years old if that. She insisted that she was fine and didn’t want any more help than the food. It’s difficult to take someone into a shelter or a BnB against their will really. Before anyone suggests it – neither appeared to be under the influence of anything other than the cold.
Before leaving We pledged to return the next night and also for them to attend a meeting with us at 6pm at Amazing Graze the following day but they didn’t show for the 6PM and couldn’t be seen on the streets. We still have not spotted this couple on the streets since weekend.
This is typical of most encounters with rough sleepers – most feel to ashamed to take the help and some just don’t feel safe around new people because of the many different people they experience on the streets. Most claim to have been robbed or assaulted by other rough sleepers or just passing members of the public. In a recent case the local volunteer group the Albert Project took a young chap under their wing who had been beaten by 2 men who were stupid enough to post a video of one of them stomping on the head of a rough sleeper on Bank Hey Street.
The Blackpool community Homeless Project who operate 2 shops in the town centre have also recently reported that one of their couples who they had housed had suffered a tragedy after being re-homed – on of the couple perished leaving the other in a bad way and in despair. All the different groups in Blackpool contribute in their own ways and have their own stories to tell of how they have helped.
It’s refreshing and fantastic to see so many groups helping this issue – But still – it’s not enough. Hopefully Amazing Graze’s pledge to effectively end homelessness over Christmas can continue well into the new year.
Everyone on the streets has a story – not all of them are filed with hard luck and missed opportunities – some come from violence – drugs and abusive backgrounds and will require much more help to return to society and leave the devices they use to cope with their issues on the streets (ie addictions and dependencies).
For many people the system is a trap – even getting onto the housing list can be fraught with hidden pitfalls leading back to the street – for one – left over fines from rough sleeping – in an article released by shelter this week it was revealed that many rough sleepers who do manage to make it into housing and back onto benefits are often hit with automatic claw backs set by courts and other agencies for fines given and obviously not paid while rough sleeping.
The amount you are afforded to live on by the government isn’t a kings ransom and any little deduction or sanction from that lifeline will lead back to the streets with no safety net and in many cases no chance of return after the first strike. This leads people either back onto the street to hide away further or sends them to another area which solves the problem from the local authorities perspective.
Many of the homeless population are transient and in our own experiences we bumped into a chap who quite happily admitted he was just walking around the country with his backpack just sleeping where he wanted – he said he had walked from wigan that day and was planning on being in Carlisle in a weeks time. His shoes genuinely looked like slippers and if you could imagine a modern day hobo from the old american films – this guy was that travelling man with his carpet bag. He seemed quite happy to stop and chat a little while – but he was dealing with his homelessness by running away – he admitted to us that his sister had put out a missing persons report for him but told us she could bugger off cos she’s not his mum…
The point being that if you meet with these people you end up tangled with them – because they need help and they have no-one – you are literally their only life line – and it’s a dangerous relationship that We wouldn’t advise anyone to go into without proper training or half an idea of the possibilities of meeting the wrong person on the street. This is why it’s vitally important to keep charities funded like The Ashley Foundation, Steetlife who look after the under 25s and Amazing Graze who are a charity helping people off the streets and offering a free soup kitchen which feeds on average 80,000 people a year and distributes as many food parcels which aren’t recorded by council officials for their purposes. There are many other organisation in the town helping the homeless problem but the three listed are the registered charities we know about.
We really can’t stress enough how much a little change can make a BIG change in someone else’s life. We were so incensed by this story tonight that we want to help Amazing Graze to fulfil their pledge of taking every rough sleeper off the streets for Christmas and add funds to that to extend that period as long as feasibly possible or until they have found suitable accommodation and help to get back into society.
Please give generously if you can or sparingly if you’re skint so that we can help to take every rough sleeper off the streets of Blackpool this Christmas.
Please click the image below to help fuel the proverbial fire keeping the homeless in our town warm and fed this winter.
If you can’t donate money but would like to pledge something else you can contact us at HELP@theBPLbible.co.uk
Still not convinced – Find out more about what goes on in the streets of Blackpool in the cold and dark of winter in our video below.