Volunteers claim Portsmouth's hidden homeless problem is 'getting worse every week'

THE number of homeless people who are not known to authorities is on the rise in Portsmouth, according to volunteers.

Tuesday, 24th September 2019, 12:09 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th September 2019, 5:00 pm
Bev Saunders, 61, founder of Helping Hands. Picture: Sarah Standing

Helping Hands, a group that feeds the city’s rough sleepers, say new people are arriving to be fed every week to a point where they are struggling to cope.

Co-founder Bev Saunders says it is the hidden homelessness that is creating this problem.

‘We do three breakfast runs a week and a dinner on Sundays, but are seeing more homeless people coming to us every week,’ she said.

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Bev Saunders, 61, founder of Helping Hands. Picture: Sarah Standing

‘We cater for 30 people, but sometimes we now run out of food and don’t have enough to go around.

‘There are a lot of people who go to the winter beds or are sofa-surfing, so you don’t see them out on the streets, but that also means people don’t know about them.’

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Hidden homelessness is the term for people living in temporary accommodation, who don’t show up on official rough sleeping records.

Charity Fete And Disco For Helping Hands in Portsmouth at The Royal Beach Hotel in Southsea - from left, volunteer Darren Peat, Bev Saunders (the Helping Hands Founder) and the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Portsmouth. Picture: Vernon Nash (210919-006)

According to the Society of St James, which provides accommodation to rough sleepers in the city, the number of hidden homeless people in Portsmouth is ‘almost certainly’ on the rise, though an exact number is tough to pinpoint.

Operations director Mike Taylor said: ‘From our perspective we don't really see these people, but charities like Helping Hands are presented with them.

‘There’s so much pressure on accommodation services that there’s almost certainly been an increase in the number of hidden homeless.’

The news comes after Helping Hands held a fundraising day at the Royal Beach Hotel in Southsea last weekend, raising £400 in the process.

Bev, who is called ‘Mum’ by many of the city’s rough sleepers, added: ‘When people are sleeping rough its hard to get them to engage with the agencies that can help them.

‘But its even harder to do that when people are homeless and not known to you.’

According to Portsmouth City Council, 49 people are using night shelters in the city, with a further seven sleeping rough.

A spokesman said: ‘People sleeping rough can find help at our day service, which offers showers, breakfast, laundry facilities, blankets, a clothing store and advice on housing, health and employment.

‘We're aware of others who are sleeping rough. Outreach workers can work to help them access housing and appropriate support.

‘Our housing team offers advice and support if people are homeless or worried about becoming homeless.’