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Winter is Coming: Lack of government support for majority of homeless people in Redbridge

PUBLISHED: 16:46 08 December 2017 | UPDATED: 16:55 08 December 2017

Homeless sleeping rough in Ilford town centre

Homeless sleeping rough in Ilford town centre

Archant

More than 90 percent of rough sleepers in Redbridge have little to no access to welfare or housing benefits, it has been revealed.

Homelessness in Redbridge infographic. Pic: Rosaleen Fenton/Infogram Homelessness in Redbridge infographic. Pic: Rosaleen Fenton/Infogram

At a two hour Redbridge Council local forum meeting on Wednesday, nearly a third of the meeting focussed on homelessness and the council’s plans to tackle it.

Last month, four men from Redbridge’s homeless community died due to exposure.

The debate, held at Karamsar Centre, High Road, Ilford, began as a resident asked the panel, chaired by council leader Jas Athwal (Lab, Mayfield), if they have a strategy to improve the desperate situation.

In response, Cllr Athwal said: “There is only one type of human and that is us.

“The situation becomes complicated when somebody is labelled as having no recourse to public funds.”

No recourse to public funds means that you are not able to claim most benefits, tax credits, or housing benefits provided by the government.

It is often a condition for those allowed to stay in the UK.

Recalling the council’s last survey of the borough, he added: “We identified 42 rough sleepers and 38 have no recourse to public funds.”

Commenting on the issue, opposition leader Cllr Paul Canal l (Con, Woodford Bridge) said: “We have a moral obligation to do something.

“Most people are two or three pay cheques from being homeless,

“We created this refugee crisis by failed policy in the Middle East, and I’m happy to go on the record saying that.”

Debate became heated as Meenakshi Sharma, a member of Neighbours of Ilford South Engage, raised concerns about the perceived concentration of rough sleepers in Ilford town centre.

She said: “We have got a lot of services in the town centre with Ramfel.

“We have also got residents with children who want to use the town centre and want to feel comfortable.

“It is not pleasant to see people in the streets.”

In response, Cllr Athwal said: “I take offence.

“The wrong thing for this council to do is to move this people to other places.

“The plan is to make sure we deal with problems in a humane and effective way.

This week, the Recorder launched a campaign to help make this winter a little warmer for those sleeping rough.

The news of the tragic deaths, which are not believed to be suspicious, prompted us at the Recorder to consider what we could do to help.

According to national homeless charity Shelter, one in 48 people in Redbridge are homeless.

They come from all walks of life, and are all ages and ethnicities.

You will have seen people sleeping behind Bodgers, in, shop entrances around Ilford town centre, and in parks across Redbridge.

The average life expectancy of rough sleepers is 47 years, and they are 17 times more likely to have been a victim of violence in the last year.

It is a situation that shames the borough.

Over the next six weeks, the Recorder intends to help those who are vulnerable or experiencing homelessness by raising awareness.

We also hope to raise £2,500 for the Ilford Salvation Army.

The money will be used to fund a caseworker who helps rough sleepers who have no access to public funds.

Donate to the campaign here: justgiving.com/fundraising/ilfordrecorderwintercampaign.

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