By Tasha Okeke
A local woman from Rotherham held an event yesterday to help the homeless and is campaigning that the council help the homeless more by allowing them to sleep in an unused building at night for their safety.
Kelly License, 33 and her voluntary group, HOPE (Hold On Pain Ends) have taken the issue of homelessness into their own hands, by reaching into their own pockets to help the homeless.
Equipped with hot drinks, hot soup, sandwiches and first aid kits, the team handed out several items to the homeless with a friendly smile. The team also hand out toiletries and clothing.
The event started out last year around Christmas after Kelly struggled with lupus and was unable to attend to work due to the illness which led to her and her son having to move back into her mum’s home.
This time in her life inspired Kelly to start helping the homeless “I just thought it is so easy to fall into that trap of being homeless, for whatever reason. I mean, for me it were ill health and as much as I wanted to work I was struggling to do it.” Once she began to feel better, she started by getting bag full items and gave them out to the homeless around town.
Recently, she set up a crowdfunding page and successfully raised £200 to be able to provide hot food for the homeless to keep them warm.
Kelly has now taken it upon herself to challenge the council with a petition for them to open an unused building at night for the homeless which reached over 55,000 signatures. She shares her reasons to why this campaign is so important for the homeless. “It will reduce crime rates if they had an empty building to go to (to live in) and they had somewhere to go at night and sleep. They wouldn’t be getting robbed off each other at night.” Unfortunately, the council didn’t comply with her petition stating that only 11 homeless people when she has a list of 39 people.
Kelly shares her confusion of this issue: “How can you get 11 people when I’ve clearly got a list of 39 here and I know and see every week since Christmas and have seen since Christmas but they said because they do a sweep at 6 in the morning they only count the number of people that are actually bedded down on the street. But, you’ll find with a lot of homeless people won’t sleep at night, they’ll sleep in the day because they don’t feel safe to sleep at night. So, that’s probably why the numbers aren’t adding up when they are saying there is only 11 when they’re not sleeping at night.”
She also shared the discrimination and criticism her team have faced: “I’ve noticed is that the other services try to put off people to help, one of them was running his mouth saying “I can see you and your little stall” trying to belittle us. They tend to not like others coming out and doing the same thing, they said you should leave it to professionals. I don’t think you need to be a professional to help anyone.
ShefNews got in touch with Sheffield City Council to ask for their comment, they responded: “We report to Government on figures and the last one showed around 11 rough sleepers in Sheffield. The group meets regularly to discuss each person and an action plan to help them. We are also aware of other people who may appear to be homeless but actually have somewhere to stay and may be involved in street activities such as begging and drinking” and also commented that the remaining people who Kelly had been working with, 6 of them were being supported and the other people who were said to have been rough sleeping had been in supported accommodation and they had checked in with their housing managers.
They also stated that there was work being done to help the homeless by the council and partners including the Turning Point rough sleeper service, Cathedral Archer Project, Ben’s Centre, Soup Kitchen and Roundabout.