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Homeless man ‘scared’ for winter on streets after tent ‘set on fire’

A homeless man whose tent was set on fire has opened up on his fears for winter living on the street.

John Campbell has been homeless for nine months after escaping from a difficult home environment, but described his life now as “degrading, awful and scary”.

During the day, the 27-year-old sits outside a Tesco as he feels safer being in sight of the store’s security system, according to Chronicle Live.

But when the night falls, he returns to his tent in the Byker area of Newcastle unless he can make £19 in donations from the public to pay for a bed for a night.

John said: “I’m sick. I don’t want to go on living like this. It’s horrible.

“If I make £19 I can get myself a warm bed for the night in a backpackers, have a decent sleep, shower, and watch some TV.

“But then in the morning I’m back out on the street trying to make another £19 and the cycle just goes on.”

John Campbell says that his tent has been torched twice while living on the streets

John explained that earlier this week he returned to his tent to find it had been set on fire for a second time, leaving him with nothing but the clothes he was wearing.

It left him feeling demoralised, degraded and unhuman.

“Why would anyone do that? It left me with nothing. I was back to square one again,” he added.

Having lived on the streets for nine months, John is yet to experience a winter without a home and admitted he is “scared” about how he will cope.

“I’m already freezing. I’m wearing about five coats, a hat and sleeping bags and I’m just freezing all of the time. I don’t know how I’ll cope when it gets even colder.”

Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics, published in December 2020, found deaths of homeless people in England and Wales reached the highest in 2019 since records began in 2013, with an estimated 778 deaths.

Suicide rates within the homeless community increased by 30% in a year.

And the average age of death was 45.9 years for men and 43.4 years for women.

However, the North East region was found to have the lowest death rate, with 28 recorded deaths among the homeless community in 2019.

In 2020, Newcastle received international recognition for the city’s work to combat homelessness in the city, winning the World Habitat 2020 Gold Award.

The award recognised the combined effort of over 100 local organisations to prevent homelessness and promote financial inclusion.

This included methods such as providing access to welfare support and addressing issues, such as debt, which can contribute towards homelessness.

However, an average of five people a day are still found to be sleeping rough in the city, Newcastle City Council confirmed.

A spokesman said: “Newcastle has a relatively good record for preventing and relieving homelessness.

“This was recognised when the city received the World Habitat 2020 Gold Award. The Judges recognised our partnership approach had prevented over 24,000 households becoming homeless since 2014.

“To meet the additional demands of relieving homelessness in the pandemic we have focused on maintaining our specialist homeless services.

A homeless person sleeping in a doorway in Newcastle
A homeless person sleeping in a doorway in Newcastle

“There were 1,414 admissions to our commissioned supported accommodation in 2020 – 21 for people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness.

“In Newcastle people do not have to sleep rough to get accommodated, our aim is to prevent rough sleeping.

“Currently an average of five people a day are found sleeping rough. They are all offered support to return to their accommodation or the offer of accommodation or reconnection to accommodation in their home area.

“The majority of the people who are found sleeping rough have complex health needs such as addictions and mental illness and we work in partnership to support people into safer places to stay.

“We have successfully attracted funding to improve our housing and support for people at risk of homelessness, this includes 40 refurbished Your Homes Newcastle flats, 16 new Tyne Housing Flats and the remodelling of Changing Lives’ 56 room hostel to 36 high quality self-contained flats.

“We are hopeful that these are more positive step towards ending homelessness.

“We welcome the short term funding that Government has provided to respond to crisis homelessness during the pandemic.

“We are pleased it is developing longer term funding programmes and look forward to working with them to develop stronger long-term responses to the individual and structural causes of homelessness.”

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