Leeds City Council is to seek an injunction over a homeless support group’s plans to organise an encampment in a car park.
Leeds County Court will hear the local authority’s application this week (8 January). The city council is looking to prevent Homeless Support Group Leeds from organising an event aimed creating a “tent city” to provide hot meals and warm clothing for rough sleepers.
In January 2019, Homeless Support Group Leeds organised a similar encampment which the council says informed its decision to seek legal action this year.
According to the local authority, the 2019 camp involved “an unlawful trespass” and was a “serious public nuisance”. The council claimed that:
- “People used controlled drugs. Used needles and other drug paraphernalia were discarded on the site
- People resident on the site were found intoxicated by alcohol and other substances and unable to care for themselves
- People urinated and defecated in open areas visible to the general public
- Rubbish and various items of waste were deposited on the site
- Fighting broke out amongst people resident on the site, and residents on the site were also subject to violent attack from others
- Further, residence on the encampment was a danger to those living there because: there was a lack of sanitation and fresh water facilities; food was prepared without adequate safeguards against contamination; there was a serious risk of infection from discarded used needles and other drug paraphernalia.”
David Hedley, founder of Homeless Support Group Leeds, disagreed with the council’s concerns.
Speaking to the BBC, he said: "By setting up a temporary camp it gives people a chance to come together, to get a tent and some warm clothes and for them all to be in the same place so they can get assessed and hopefully get the help they need."
"I have repeatedly asked the council's outreach services to come down to the Leeds street kitchen to meet those we are helping and to see what more can be done but nothing has happened."
A council spokesperson said: “We remain committed to working with a broad range of people and organisations across the city to support those in need. This includes through our designated Street Support Team initiative, Housing First policy and Leeds Homeless Charter.
“Support is available to everyone that chooses to accept it, which includes the offer of accommodation on a night and in the long-term, which for a variety of reasons, are not always accepted by everyone.
“Our Street Support Team have been engaging and advising those who have expressed an interest in organising an unauthorised encampment of the adverse consequences whilst also providing guidance on more responsible ways vulnerable people in the city can be supported.”
The spokesperson added: “Anyone working independently and outside of the charter potentially runs the risk of undermining progress we are making and, in some cases, puts people’s ongoing rehabilitation at risk. This is why we are taking this action.
“We cannot afford to be diverting valuable resources away from where they are needed. This is not a situation we want.”