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Lib Dems tour rough sleeping hotspots

May 23 2009
Party leader finds Sheffield visit "a fascinating and eye-opening experience" Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg joined Sheffield's city agencies in the early morning hours of 11th October to tour around the local areas frequented by homeless people and rough sleepers. Starting at 6am, the Sheffield Hallam MP visited several derelict buildings and warehouses, as well as some of the local spots around the Cathedral area used by homeless people for sleep, to witness the extent of Sheffield's problem of rough sleepers. Mr Clegg, who was accompanied by support staff and managers of The Salvation Army and representatives from South Yorkshire Police, told The Pavement the visit was "a fascinating and eye-opening experience." He said: "It is sad that even today many people still find themselves out on the street, and I was keen to listen to those on the frontline and those affected about how things can be improved. "So much of the excellent and absolutely necessary work done by the organisations helping the homeless goes unnoticed, yet as winter draws in, their work will become even more important." Stephen Burnell, centre manager at the Salvation Army's Charter Row hostel, said the purpose of the tour was to present to the Lib Dem leader the gravity of the situation. He said: "We did use shock and awe: we didn't pull any punches. Walking in some of the places is quite dangerous. Nick Clegg was horrified of the state of the spots and stated that he's going to address it at Prime Minister's Question Time." According to Charter Row estimations, there are more than 40 rough sleepers in Sheffield's city centre, a big contrast with Sheffield City Council's count, which says that only two people a night are out. Mr Burnell, a former rough sleeper, told The Pavement: "The statistics are nowhere near right. We do not get a fair representation of what is going on. The biggest problem is that they don't recognise the number of people that are sleeping rough, so the services and funding cannot be put in place to support them. "We need to completely review the whole chain, from being on the streets to moving into accommodation, making sure the support networks are in place right the way through, otherwise people fall through the cracks and end up back on the streets."
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