ANDY BURROWS: Let’s talk about homelessness in Peterborough. Because the number of homeless people in the city could rise dramatically in the coming years. The prediction comes from the City Council, which thinks cuts to housing benefit and increasing redundancies will force people out onto the streets. Susan Watters is Chair of the homeless charity Peterborough Streets. She says cuts to local authority funding also won’t help the situation. (TAPE)
SUSAN WATTERS: Our concern is that with local authority cutbacks and possible redundancies. The people that are needed in local authorities to help these people will not be there, and therefore they’ll need to come to us for our help. So what we’ll have to do is change our infrastructure, which will have an impact on our funding, in order to be able to service these people in the needs that they will have that are different to our current client mix. (LIVE)
ANDY BURROWS: The City Council also says that changes to the status of migrant workers will also mean the number of homeless people will rise. However, that’s been dismissed rather robustly today by the Migrants Rights Network. Let’s speak to the Chairman of Peterborough’s Soup Kitchen, Ian Davies. Evening to you Ian
IAN DAVIES: Good evening.
ANDY BURROWS: Do you fear a rise in the number of people that you’re being asked to help next year?
IAN DAVIES: We’re already seeing it at the moment. Peterborough has the 3rd highest number of homeless people within the UK already. And we are feeding anywhere between 40 and 50 people a night currently. And that’s gone up from 30 at the start of the year. And we consider that for the same factors that have been discussed or mentioned already that we will see that continuing to rise. We don’t see it as a short-term issue. We see it as a very long-term issue and that really the Council should be looking at ways of reducing potentially reducing the number of homeless people, and obviously supporting those people who are potentially becoming homeless.
ANDY BURROWS: So you’re already dealing with people then, are you, who have already fallen on hard times. They’re the tip of the iceberg, are they, of the number of people who are going to be affected by the dowturn, by cuts to local authority grants, and stuff like that, over the next few years?
IAN DAVIES: We see already two sorts of people. One who are physically homeless, as on the streets, that we see around the city centre during the day. But also we’re tending to see a lot more people who are living in houses but are falling down the wall, and are potentially becoming homeless, or just hanging on to a place. Now with the Council cutting the benefit structure for housing benefit, I can see that that will just compound the issue of homelessness, and that these people will potentially be evicted.
ANDY BURROWS: It clearly impacts on your work as well. You’re going to need more resources to help feed them, I suppose. What do you need?
IAN DAVIES: We primarily need food, because that’s what we serve in the evening, six days a week. So we’re always searching new methods of getting food. We have some generous donors currently, but we’re always looking for new food sources. Also we’re looking to set up a food bank within Peterborough, so we can start helping more people.
ANDY BURROWS: What’s a food bank?
IAN DAVIES: A food bank distributes food to the very disadvantaged people which we’re talking about here, the people who are living on the edge of being evicted. Currently, people like the Salvation Army, and various other smaller charities around Peterborough offer those bags of food to people who are in desperate need. And we’re trying to reduce waste within the city. We’re talking to several of the supermarkets, and also some of the intitial suppliers to these supermarkets, about either their waste food, or excess stock that they have.
ANDY BURROWS: OK. Well, interesting to speak to you. Thank you very much for your time. Ian Davies there, Chairman of Peterborough’s Soup Kitchen.