HOMELESS people will die on the streets of Barnsley unless urgent action is taken to tackle the escalating problem, a local charity has warned.
Rocketing levels of cases have been noted by The Rough Sleepers Project, a nightly outreach service whose members connect homeless people with help available.
Leaders revealed they have seen the number of cases ‘grow significantly’ in the last week – just days after the government removed a so-called eviction ban that protected cash-strapped tenants from the threat of eviction.
Andrew Crawford, who leads the project, fears the problem could worsen going into the winter months.
He told the Chronicle: “The numbers are up with an average of eight rough sleepers supported each night this week.
“We’ve all felt the bite of the cold this week which is a real concern.
“The run of low numbers was consistent for a short while but spikes like this week’s need tackling.
“If we get complacent, some of the heads we’re finding in need of help on Barnsley’s streets won’t wake up.”
Andrew has urged council bosses to adequately support trained volunteers and services to combat the problem.
“Elected officials should consider keeping their rhetoric, statements and media posts on internal view only,” he added.
“There needs to be action, the sort of action that turns my words into lies.
“They can do this by letting the professionals do what they’re trained to do, adequately resourced and supported.”
Work to re-accommodate homeless people in Barnsley is being stepped up as a result of ongoing concerns about rough sleepers being more susceptible to contracting coronavirus, according to the council.
Coun Jenny Platts, cabinet spokesperson for communities, said: “The council is working hard to source a range of accommodation options for those who are rough sleeping in line with government guidance.
“This is not an easy task as these individuals have a range of complex needs that involve more than just housing.
“We want to ensure any offer of accommodation is suitable, and that appropriate support can be accessed wherever this is possible in the current climate.
“We want people to contact services and let us know where they may have issues, both with rent arrears and other financial problems because of coronavirus.
“We’re working to make sure we provide help for our residents that is supportive and fair.
“Where people are experiencing difficulties in paying the rent for their property, we are encouraging them to contact Berneslai Homes.”
Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock added: “People being left to sleep rough without a roof over their heads should shame us all, and the increase in those who have tragically died on our streets shows this is a national emergency.
“After falling under the last Labour government, homelessness is skyrocketing as the Conservatives have spent the best part of a decade slashing vital support services like housing benefit and funding for homelessness facilities.
“Instead of removing the vital safety nets some of the most vulnerable people in our communities rely on, this callous government should immediately address this homelessness crisis and end this national shame.”
* If you have concerns about rough sleeping in Barnsley, call 773870, freephone 0300 3031 990, or firstname.lastname@example.org.