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Sikh help

February 10 2011
At least 200 people are living rough in Southall, claims volunteer group

According to the Sikh Welfare Awareness Team (Swat), at least 200 people are living rough in Southall, reports the Ealing Gazette.

The volunteer group, which provides support for the homeless, including medicine, clean clothing, sleeping bags and drugs advice, reports that men and women from the Punjab and other parts of India are sleeping in graveyards, alleyways and even rubbish bins.

Swat volunteer Suneeta Dohil said: "The problem is worse than a lot of people realise. Because they do not speak English or trust local authorities, a lot of these homeless people are scared to come forward, so they get forgotten about."

The Ealing Council cabinet member for housing, Hitesh Tailor, countered: "All our work in Southall has shown most of those outside at night do have a place that they could go to sleep, albeit not a permanent home. Outreach workers constantly visit areas where there are known problems, but one issue is that many of the people are fearful of being approached by officers, possibly because of concerns they may have about their immigration status."

He added that the council would continue to work with the UK Border Agency and the police, as well as outreach charities such as St Mungos and Thames Reach to tackle the problems of rough sleepers.