Around 100 De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) students took to the city’s streets in the dead of night to complete a major new homeless survey.
Scores of volunteers from across the university teamed up with the charity Action Homeless, Leicester City Council and a range of other public agencies, to spend up to three hours covering 18 zones of the city, making a comprehensive count of Leicester’s rough sleepers.
The survey took place on Leicester Connections Week, part of the European Campaign to End Street Homelessness.
It was the first phase of a bigger piece of work which will inform future strategy to tackle the issue of homelessness, directing the action of shelter organisations and the work of local authorities.
Mia D’Souza, studying Youth Work and Community Development, said: “I wanted to get involved to see what life is like from a different perspective. I wanted to see where people without a home to go to would end up staying.
“I now know where to look; I never knew people would sleep on shop steps. We could see people had left pillows and blankets out so you know the number is even higher than those we’ve actually seen tonight.”
Having gathered at DMU’s Hugh Aston building at around 10pm at night, the volunteers were given a safety briefing which reminded them of key aspects of previous training sessions, split into smaller groups, assigned a team leader and given a sector of the city to patrol.
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The groups headed out at about midnight and spent the next few hours working in groups, exploring alleys and doorways, looking behind bins and in bushes, exploring some of the common spots used by rough sleepers.
Those they did find on the streets were approached by team leaders – experienced professionals from either the local authority or Action Homeless – and invited to take part in the survey. They were offered support if they needed it and a place to stay; those that were asleep were left information on how to find help when they awoke.
Mark Grant, Chief Executive of Action Homeless, thanked the volunteers for coming out.
He said: “Tonight we’re trying to find every rough sleeper on the streets of Leicester, whether we know them or, if we don’t know them we can find out who they are, what they are doing, how we can help.”
Mushtaq Patas, studying LLM Law BA, said he had volunteered to help take the survey to raise awareness of the level of homelessness in Leicester.
He said: “I have just started at university and volunteering is great not just for employability but to develop relationships and understand what is happening locally.”
Jo Richardson, Professor of Housing and Director of the Centre for Comparative Housing Research at DMU said: “As a consequence of this survey, we will analyse the findings and there will be an event next week where we are going to disseminate the preliminary findings.
“That will inform further research needs, inform policies across the city and be shared with other cities taking part across the UK so that some of the broad findings can be shared and amplified to help address the problem.”
Posted on Thursday 9th November 2017