Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'The System Has Got a Big Problem, They Are Saying They Are Helping People but All They Are Doing Is Processing Them and Then Putting Them Back on Their Own'

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'The System Has Got a Big Problem, They Are Saying They Are Helping People but All They Are Doing Is Processing Them and Then Putting Them Back on Their Own'

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Marsh Reporter michael.marsh@ncjmedia.co.uk

SITTING near Leicester Square in central London trying to scrape together PS9 from passers-by in order to get a hostel room, Steve is just one of thousands sleeping rough on England's streets.

The 39-year-old, from South Shields, said he became homeless four years ago when his son died, adding: "I turned my back on my life and ended up on the streets."

Steve, who declined to give his surname, and 27-year-old Alex are among the hundreds living on the streets in Westminster, which has the highest number of homeless of any local authority in England, according to a snapshot survey.

Both men were critical of a lack of support and the actions of the police for moving the homeless on.

"The police have arrested me four or five times just for sitting here asking for human kindness - asking to stay alive. They have told me outright that I am an eyesore for the tourists. That's why they don't want us here," Steve said.

"It's a crime to be homeless in this country - literally," he added.

Alex, from London, who also declined to give a surname, started sleeping rough 12 years ago after falling out with his family when he was 15 years old.

"I argued with my family," he explained, "then I moved out and haven't been able to hold down a job properly."

Alex then started squatting in empty buildings.

"I landed on the street and I was so cold, so I broke into a building to go to sleep," he said. "I then got to know some people who told me more about squatting. And that was that. Now I move around as much as possible."

Discussing the increase in homeless people on the streets, Alex said: "There's hundreds of us. Hundreds and hundreds of drug addicts, and not much help. The system has got a big problem, they are saying they are helping people but all they are doing is processing them and then putting them back on their own. They are pretending. They are not really helping.

"You just end up getting put through the same system, you get the same result and you end up back in the same place."

When asked what he thinks would help improve the situation, he replied: "A building. …

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