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Rough sleepers set up village of tents off Stafford Road

By Jordan Reynolds | Wolverhampton | News | Published:

A plea has been made to help rough sleepers in the city as temperatures plummet this week

The tents in woods along the railway track near Stafford Road, Wolverhampton

Rough sleepers have set up a make-shift camp site just off a main road in Wolverhampton.

A number of tents, chairs, and rubbish has been found just up a bank off Stafford Road in a wooded area.

It comes as snow started to fall on the Black Country and temperatures plummeted.

The council has said an outreach team visited the site this week but that the city does have an 'ongoing issue' with rough sleepers.

A Wolverhampton Council spokesman said: “Members of our outreach team have visited the site on Tuesday and the people there have offers of accommodation open to them - and are aware of the general assistance that is available to them.

Some of the tents that have appeared in a make-shift camp site in woods along the railway track near Stafford Road, Wolverhampton

"Like most big towns and cities, Wolverhampton does have an ongoing issue with rough sleepers, but we are working hard to address this.

“The council continues to actively work with its partner agencies - P3, Wolverhampton Homes, Recovery Near You, Wolverhampton BID, Church Shelter, SUIT, Good Shepherd, St Georges HUB, Refugee and Migrant Centre, as well as other voluntary groups - to try and find a solution for rough sleepers through support and advice.

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“Since April 2018, 16 long-term rough sleepers have been assisted off the streets into accommodation, while more than 20 other people at risk of rough sleeping have had access to support, been given a temporary roof over their heads, and will go on to secure long-term accommodation.

'Disgrace'

“The city’s church shelter also continues to operate through the cold weather.”

But the Jeremy Watson, the manager at Wolverhampton Church Shelter, said that the 20 beds are full and have been for a number of weeks.

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He said: "It's become full pretty much all the time. During the peak summer months the numbers drop down but otherwise it's pretty much full.

"Last year we looked after more than 200 different people."

Housing and homelessness charity Shelter has said that it is a 'disgrace' that people are sleeping rough in modern Britain.

Some of the tents that have appeared in a make-shift camp site in woods along the railway track near Stafford Road, Wolverhampton

Greg Beales, campaign director at Shelter, said: “The cold weather exposes how hard life is for people living on the streets where they face dangerous conditions that can severely damage mental and physical health. It’s a disgrace that so many of our fellow citizens are still sleeping rough in modern Britain.

“While we welcome government efforts to try to start tackling the crisis - we also need to see investment in social homes, so people can afford their rent and keep a roof over their head in the first place.

“And if people want to help someone sleeping rough straight away, with money or a hot drink and some food, that’s an individual choice. If you’re concerned about anyone’s welfare, the best thing to do is to get in touch with our friends at Streetlink streetlink.org.uk who can get outreach services directly to the person.”

A precarious existence where survival is key

Broken plates and vodka bottles greet you when you enter the tented village. This is a community where survival in the winter is the main objective.

Household items have an incongruous appearance in the woods. Half of a Nintendo DS sits alongside a broken gas burner. A pram and a broken office chair sit along with an open, dirty pink suitcase amongst the trees. A model of a boat is tied to a tree near the tents, which are next to fenced-off railway tracks.

One man who emerged from a tent said he is just about managing to keep himself warm.

The resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said he lived near Moscow before coming over to the UK and has been homeless for six months.

The camp set up as snow began to fall across the Black Country.

He said: “I climbed up the bank. Roughly two or three people are living down here. We’ve been here for about a week. I’ve been on the streets for about six months.

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“Sometimes we go into a shelter but there is not so much support from the council.

The 36-year-old Russian added: “I was not working. I’ve been in the country for about five years. I was working until six months ago. I lost my job and I’m here now and I’m getting on OK.

“It’s OK and I’m managing to keep warm. I’m trying to get back to work.”

The residents of the camp nestle on a site near Stafford Road, up a steep, muddy incline.

Other tents are dotted in similarly precarious positions, including one near Bentley Bridge in Wednesfield.

Council bosses say they have visited the Stafford Road site to offer accommodation and are working with other agencies to tackle the issue.

And homeless people have been urged to contact voluntary groups in the city.

The emergence of the tented communities comes only two months after homeless charity Shelter revealed more than 1,500 people are now homeless in the Black Country and Staffordshire.

A total of 470 people were recently recorded as being homeless in Wolverhampton, with 19 known to be rough sleepers.

Jordan Reynolds

By Jordan Reynolds
Reporter - @jreynolds_star

Senior reporter at the Express & Star.

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