A bird's-eye view of Leeds and surrounding areas.

The charity helping change the lives of Leeds’ rough sleepers

Simon on the Streets delivers outreach on the streets to the homeless community and those that are most vulnerable in Leeds, Bradford and Kirklees.

Ten years ago, as a film student, I was encouraged to head out into City Square late one night to join a demo being held by a homelessness charity whose representatives we’d recently interviewed for the purposes of a short documentary. 

The plan was to congregate in as big a number as possible before walking to a small garden behind Leeds Minster where volunteers would pitch tents and stay overnight in order raise awareness and possibly money in the name the city’s rough sleepers. 

Being 17 and everything, me and the rest of my class headed into City Square reluctantly, hoping to bag a few scenic shots before getting the next bus home. But within two minutes of being there, we found ourselves in the grips of a movement whose attitude and ethos was mesmerizing. The night remains a vivid exception in a period of my life that is quite blurry. 

It’s bittersweet to know that charity, Simon on the Streets, is going strong in 2021. While no doubt an admirable endeavour, in a country as developed as the UK, it’s painful to know that organisations such as them still have enough demand in terms of rough sleepers. 

Founded in 1999, Simon on the Streets focuses on unsupported people with a history of rough sleeping across Bradford, Kirklees, and Leeds. The team of volunteers offer street-based, emotional, and practical support for those who cannot access mainstream services. A main incentive is tackling the behavioural issues and mental illnesses that often lead to or manifest from homelessness and addiction.

Simon on the Streets

Earlier this month, a sleep-in similar to the ones they’ve done in the past was twisted to appease the current climate. On Friday 7 May, families across the country pitched tents in their homes and gardens as part of a “Little Sleep In” to raise money for West Yorkshire’s homeless. In the end, a mighty £2,500 was raised.

Natalie Moran, CEO at Simon on the Streets, said: “We’re really grateful to everyone who took part in our second Little Sleep In and helped raise £2,500.

“We’re still unsure if our biggest fundraising event, our annual sleep-out, will be able to go ahead later this year and with the inaugural Little Sleep In being such a great success last year, the public have continued to show immense creativity and support for us to fundraise at home. The funds raised will go a long way to enable our hardworking outreach workers to continue to support the most vulnerable people living on our streets.”

What is particularly amazing about the charity is how people who’ve often slept rough themselves, if not struggled with some form of mental health or addiction problem, have gone on to become volunteers and act as proof that things can and will get better, even if the cards seem to be stacked against you.

Scotty Bell, a recent addition to the team, gained his first fixed address in 2010. He said, “My role is essentially customer service and market research to make sure that Simon on the Streets involves the people using our service in everything from the design and delivery and capturing and using their feedback to deliver a better service for them. 

“This is something businesses do, and it is just as important, if not even more important, that we do this as a charity too. We work in this sector because we care about people and we are problem solvers. Our hope is that we can empower people to take action themselves.”

Another new recruit, Leah Charlson, added: “I’m so excited to have joined the Simon on the Streets team. I’ve spent my first few weeks getting to know all aspects of the charity and going out with the outreach team to fully understand how my work supports the great work they do. 

“Covid has changed the world overnight with charities hit particularly hard. We’re starting to rebuild our efforts and create new ways to engage people across business, education and communities.”

You can find out all you need to know about Simon on the Streets through their website right here. 

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