EVEN one person forced by their circumstances to sleep on the streets is one person too many, but did you know that those bedding down in shop doorways or under bridges in Leeds are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to homelessness?

There’s a whole community of people for whom their homelessness goes unseen. The hidden homeless are people without a place to call home who are sofa surfing reliant on the goodwill of friends or family. Or they could be sleeping in cars or in sheds or garages.

Turning Lives Around annually supports some 1,000 men, women, young people, couples, and families to maintain their tenancy, become tenancy ready or into their own properties by providing the tailored support needed to enable them to sustain their tenancies and live full independent lives.

One of TLA’s services is Beacon Leeds which they deliver in partnership with other local charities Touchstone and Foundation for men and women with multiple disadvantages.

Beacon is commissioned by Leeds City Council to provide supported accommodation for those assessed as being in ‘priority need’. This means as well as being homeless they have other complex needs such as mental ill-health, offending history, drug or alcohol dependency. The service can accommodate approximately 250 people at any one time in a range of intensive 24/7 hostel style accommodation, shared houses, and self-contained flats.

Beacon’s support is accessed by referral from Leeds Housing Options, the service’s street outreach worker, other agencies or self-referral via a downloadable form on TLA’s website. As the need for help has risen, so the number of self-referrals has also increased, far exceeding the accommodation and support that Beacon has available.

“It is hard to quantify just how many people are hidden homeless, but the self-referrals tend to be from people in that situation, those who are ‘making do’, living on friends’ floors etc and have very little hope of finding a new home for themselves without additional help,” explained Shamyla Sarwar, TLA Pathway Manager for Beacon Leeds.

“All our clients have some element of complex need and in addition to needing accommodation, require support to address that need and enable them to live independently. In some situations where the applicant is assessed as being low risk and is otherwise being missed by the system, we are able to help. However, the number of self-referrals we are receiving at the moment is overwhelming. This has led to a very long waiting list and the need to look at more effective ways of managing the referral process.”

Taking a trauma-informed approach where clients’ past experiences are recognised and appreciated, Beacon supports more than 200 people a year to move into independent living and more permanent accommodation available through private landlords, Leeds City Council, and housing associations. Most clients are with the service for between four and ten months.

“There is a lot of work going on in Leeds by a number of different organisations supporting homelessness and trying to prevent it. Beacon isn’t the right service for everyone but by working together we can signpost to other agencies who may be able to help,” said Shamyla.

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