Should we be doing more to help the homeless in Sheffield?

The majority of homeless people sleeping on the streets of Sheffield are not being properly helped by charities, according to the organiser of Sheffield Tent City.

Anthony Cunningham, 31, set up a Tent City project on Park Hill last month to help rough sleepers get food, clothing and a place to stay.

There were 13 tents on the site next to the abandoned flats with clothes, food, water and cooking supplies.

However, the project came under fire from police, charities and members of the public. There was reports of drug deals, gun violence and even slavery on the camp.

Mr Cunningham, who grew up on Park Hill, is passionate about this venture because he grew up in amongst homelessness, crime and violence.

He said: “Charity is such a dirty word; they’re just businesses who care more about getting money than putting it where it is needed… Homelessness is an industry.”

Mr Cunningham claims that charities keep much of the money raised rather than give it to the people who need it.

Tent City was not an affiliated charity and this led to criticism from a wide range of people.

More Tent Cities were set up in Scunthorpe, Doncaster and Hull and these sites also got attacked through social media with people calling them “drug cities”.

A lot of the rough sleepers who stayed at the camps are addicted to drugs, mainly heroin, and find it impossible to give up.

They choose not to go into homeless shelters because they would have to stick to a regime they are not used to. One man even refused hospital treatment, even though he was at risk of losing both of his legs due to an ulcer, because he could not bear to be without the drug.

Mr Cunningham said: “I’ve been there… I’ve been to prison twice and now have a job, a home and a family… I needed to make a change and help other people get to where I am today.”

The last of the tents has now been moved, but at Park Hill there are still an abundance of heroin needles and human waste scattered on the floor and drug deals going on daily.

Anthony Cunningham set up a 24-hour camera to monitor the area and there were also daily police patrols, however this did not seem to stop the drug activity.

Despite the anti-social behaviour, the camp did help several people. It led to some of the homeless getting keys to their own flats and side projects such as soup kitchens, pop up charity shops and ladies’ nights helped people get more involved with a community and even helped some people kick their drug addictions.

However, since the last tent has left Park Hill, the council seem to have turned their backs on the project and there is a fear that people will go back to the situations they were in before.


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