Test Valley Borough Council is trying to tackle homelessness having been made aware of rough sleepers in Andover town centre.
The council has issued advice to residents and shoppers in a bid to reduce the number of people giving money directly to those begging. The council says giving money to beggars ‘has the potential to exacerbate the problem.’
Housing and environmental health portfolio holder, Cllr Phil Bundy, said, “We are absolutely committed to tackling homelessness and continue to focus our resources on addressing and preventing the problem. Last year the council’s housing team prevented 427 households from becoming homeless.
“Rough sleeping is a complex issue and one that requires a variety of local agencies to work closely together to offer support to those in need. Unfortunately, the generosity and goodwill of members of the public can hamper efforts being made by local agencies to persuade people to move off the streets and come inside. Giving money directly to rough sleepers can sustain and prolong the problem and make them less likely to accept help from the local agencies, which has consequences for both their physical and mental health.”
Test Valley Borough Council claim “wherever possible, no individual who presents themselves as homeless will have to leave the council offices and sleep rough without first being made an offer of accommodation.”
Andover Radio met with Louise Barlow, she disagrees with the council’s claim. Louise has been living in Andover for 35 years, 5 years as a homeless person. She says, “I’ve been up to ask for their help, I even sat outside their offices with a trolley full of my stuff and they can’t help me. I need a home, I am walking the streets with all my stuff and I am sick of it.
“I owe rent to a Housing Association, so the council say its not their responsibility and can’t help”.
“I am losing the will to live”.
She goes on to explain that a fellow rough sleeper was sleeping in St Mary’s graveyard and suffered two cracked ribs because a drunk person started kicking her while she was asleep.
You can hear Louise’s full interview here:
Councillor Bundy, added: “We want to reassure residents that we do all we can to help those who are sleeping rough as well as those at risk of ending up on the street. I would urge anyone who is worried about their housing situation to contact the council’s housing team as soon as possible as there are measures we can put in place to help prevent homelessness.”
“It is important to note that not all forms of street activity, such as begging and drinking, equate to homelessness and many of these individuals have very complex issues. It is therefore vital that they have access to the right services, which is why people may wish to consider supporting local charities that work directly with homeless people and those with substance abuse issues.”
The average age of mortality for rough sleepers in England has been estimated at 43 years, almost half the UK life expectancy.
Andover Radio will be submitting a copy of Louise’s interview to the Borough Council for a response.
Residents can report rough sleepers via the national StreetLink service at www.streetlink.org.uk