A UNIVERSITY of Portsmouth student is leading a new campaign to support the city’s homeless.
Left concerned by the plight of men and women living on the streets, Luke Buckland has been spurred to try to give them a stronger voice in the hope their fortunes can be turned round.
The 21-year-old believes many homeless shelters offering beds are giving priority to rough sleepers with addictions – while others without serious problems are forced to wait longer for accommodation.
The third-year politics student says he’s been going around the city talking to rough sleepers finding out about the problems they face daily and what can be done to give them better support.
He’s also spoken to Hampshire’s police and crime candidates ahead of the election tomorrow to determine who next should fulfil the role.
It comes after The News revealed in March that the number of people sleeping rough in Portsmouth has trebled, while in Havant the figure has doubled.
They have charities like Crisis and Centrepoint, which can speak for them, but a lot of homeless people aren’t engaging with those services so I don’t think they are being represented.University of Portsmouth student Luke Buckland
Mr Buckland said: ‘I am interested in giving homeless people a voice because I don’t think they are getting one at the moment. They have charities like Crisis and Centrepoint, which can speak for them, but a lot of homeless people aren’t engaging with those services so I don’t think they are being represented.
‘The police and crime commissioner elections are coming up, and I’ve asked them about how the relationship between the police and the homeless can be improved. I have spoken to and developed relationships with homeless people and been getting more of an idea about the issues they face.
‘I am coming across a lot of people who also like me are 21 and male, and some of them don’t have drink or drug or mental health problems.
‘They say one of the main issues is going along to a shelter, and then being told they have to wait for two weeks to go before a panel who decide whether they should have access to accommodation.
‘Because of their position as a young male, they are not classed as vulnerable.
‘But if someone with alcohol or drug addictions come in, they get put above them.’
Mr Buckland has also praised the work of independent councillor Paul Godier, who has been appointed to a panel leading the council’s effort to support the homeless given his own experiences of life on the streets as a teenager.
Mr Buckland said: ‘If you go around Portsmouth and speak to homeless people, they say the only councillor that is speaking for them is Paul. They say he is the one helping homeless people.’
WHAT THE POLICE AND CRIME COMMISSIONER CANDIDATES SAID TO LUKE
RICHARD ADAIR (LIB DEM)
‘I know homeless people, as a rule, do not ‘trust’ the police; most of their engagements with police are not positive. Elected officials must not demonise the homeless. All sorts of people become homeless.
‘Persons with mental health issues and addictions are very often homeless and beg. We need to understand why people are homeless.’
MICHAEL LANE (CONSERVATIVE)
Mr Lane says he would explore the potential for holding surgeries, so that people can voice their concerns.
If elected, and he was provided with evidence that public space protection orders were being used disproportionately against the homeless, he would take it very seriously, and raise it with the chief constable.
ROBIN PRICE (LABOUR)
‘My objective is to draw people’s attention to austerity. If you want a decent police force, you need to pay for it. An austerity policy equates to fewer public sector jobs, and less tax revenue. If Osborne is so keen on saving money, then why has he been implementing tax cuts? If I was chancellor, I would increase Hampshire police’s budget by 50 per cent.’
ROY SWALES (UKIP)
Homelessness is one of my priorities- particularly helping servicemen who are homeless.
‘Holding up a sign with ‘please help me I am homeless’ is not offensive. And you cannot get rid of social issues by fining/putting people in prison.
‘The problem lies in how the existing laws are applied.’
SIMON HAYES (INDEPENDENT)
‘Homeless people are victims of crime.
Any drugs, including alcohol can change behaviour and make homeless people more vulnerable to crime. On professional beggars, I have seen CCTV evidence of people begging but they have a home. It is wrong. This gives homeless people a bad name.’
DON JERRARD (INDEPENDENT)
‘The police should turn a blind eye to fairly passive begging. They shouldn’t try to cause a problem that isn’t there. The police could ask the homeless who come across in situations like that if they needed help, but the police do not have a lot of resources to offer this kind of support. The police are not social workers - they are not qualified for this.’
STEVE WATTS (ZERO TOLERANCE POLICING EX CHIEF)
‘I take a zero-tolerance approach to policing.
‘It means doing something about the things that blight our lives and protect the vulnerable.
‘I take a zero tolerance approach to anti-social behaviour, but I do not see homelessness as anti-social behaviour.’