Sleeping rough is 'lifestyle choice', Northampton council report claims

Mike Hallet
Image caption Mike Hallett has been homeless in Northampton for two years after he was unable to pay bills connected to his accommodation

An established number of people are choosing to sleep rough as a "lifestyle choice", a council report has claimed.

An investigation by Northampton Borough Council discovered 21 homeless people in the town, including "a significant proportion of European migrants".

The people were "resolutely refusing to leave the streets", the report said.

Council officials held talks with 30 organisations to develop a plan to eliminate rough sleeping by June 2017.

Image caption Darren Jordan thinks some homeless people cannot see a future beyond living on the streets - but hopes he will return to work when an injury clears up

Lithuanian Kristians Olsteins has been rough sleeping in Northampton for about four months after losing his job and passport.

He said it was not a lifestyle choice for him and he would like nothing more than to have a home.

Mike Hallet, who has been homeless for two years, also denied it was a choice.

He said: "Of course, I would like to be off the streets - it is horrible and I would rather be anywhere else."

Image caption Kristians Olsteins is trying to earn a living through his music and with support from a Lithuanian church

But Darren Jordan, who lived on the streets for two months before finding space in a homeless shelter, believes "some people get stuck in a rut and then it does become a lifestyle choice".

Northampton Hope Centre runs a day centre supporting people who are homeless or in poverty and was one of the organisations consulted by council officials.

General manager Robin Burgess said: "It's clear there are people who have become accustomed to life on the street over many years - or even decades.

Image copyright Alan Murray-Rust/Geograph
Image caption In March, 19 men and two women were discovered sleeping rough in Northampton. St Edmund's Hospital (above) was considered too unsafe to check

"Some are European and some are addicted to drink and alcohol - but I don't believe anyone actively chooses to sleep on the streets."

He said the way to address homelessness is to supply individual support for as long as is needed.

Under a three-year plan set to be discussed on Wednesday, it is proposed that Northampton Borough Council will provide a temporary night shelter which would require some initial set-up costs "likely to be under £50,000".

The financial implications of setting up and running the shelter for up to 18 months will be fully-costed and any plan will require approval.

"Comprehensive support plans" for "rough sleepers with complex needs" would also be introduced.

Crisis, a charity for single homeless people, said rough sleeping was "incredibly dangerous" and a homeless person was "13 times more likely to be a victim of violence than the average member of the public".

Chief executive Jon Sparkes added: "Rather than blaming the people in these desperate circumstances, we need to focus on acting quickly and decisively to get them the support they need."

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