A homelessness outreach group in Leeds has described the “awful” conditions rough sleepers and those living in temporary accommodation suffered through during the pandemic.
Linda Aalbregt, founder of the grassroots organisation Hidden Homeless, said that people who remained on the streets throughout lockdown had no support, and by the end of it were very thin, dirty and feeling lost.
While Leeds City Council offered accommodation to most homeless people throughout the pandemic, the conditions of some places provided weren’t ideal for everyone.
Linda said: “Leeds City Council did really well in the beginning, and they got most people off the streets. But there were some that wouldn’t go.
“Some homeless people with dogs won’t go to hotels because their pets cannot be taken with them, and others have become so used to sleeping outdoors that they struggle to readjust inside.
“When (Hidden Homeless) were first let out after the first lockdown, we found people who were so thin, so dirty… it was really awful.”
Every Wednesday and Friday night, Hidden Homeless volunteers distribute goods to rough sleepers in Leeds, as well as those who may have been housed, but still cannot afford basics, such as food and clothing.
The group begin their outreach outside Leeds Minster in the city centre, where hot food and drink stations are set up.
They then make their way over to the arches beneath Leeds Station, before finally moving on to Headingley.
On Wednesday night this week around 25 people lined up outside Leeds Minster to receive essential goods from Hidden Homeless volunteers.
James*, who has been living on and off the streets since the age of 12, said: “It’s so good to come here and get food but also it’s good just to be able to talk to people.
“Right now, I’m living in temporary accommodation and the isolation is horrible and the place is horrible. I like to be able to talk to people and we couldn’t really do that in the lockdown.”
Chris*, who is also living in temporary council housing, said: “I come here to get food because I don’t have much of my own. The hot food is very nice in the cold like it is now.”
Linda said: “So many people aren’t in the right position to be housed and some people just can’t cope, even if they do get a place of their own.
“Personally, I would like to see more support for people once they get a property. A lot of the people haven’t got a clue how to deal with bills or the ordinary day to day things that we do.
“I’d love to see something set up where people get supported throughout.”
*Names have been changed to protect anonymity.