Leighton’s homeless debate: ‘We need help to change our lives’

The homeless and street drinkers in Leighton Buzzard
The homeless and street drinkers in Leighton Buzzard

Leighton Buzzard’s homeless have spoken out about how they crave somewhere warm to go during the day so they don’t have to loiter on the streets of the town centre.

The plight of the town’s homeless and its street drinkers has sparked fierce debate in past week.

After reporting on problems caused to business owners in North Street, some of those on the streets have revealed to the LBO what daily life is like outside the nights they spend at the Black Horse shelter run by Leighton-Linslade Homeless Shelter.

> “I’m so cold all the time, I’ve been on the streets since the 10th May last year. They keep moving me on no matter where I go. I was sectioned under the mental health act for 5 weeks, I went through the pain of detox to be thrown back onto the streets in the rain with no money and nowhere to go, 21 miles away from my home town and support groups.

“I slept in a graveyard for weeks as its the only place I felt safe. I had a meeting with someone from the supported housing accommodation and on the day they didn’t turn up. It’s a nightmare. I’ve never been homeless like this. I’ve been outside on the streets every night since May. I just a want home.”

> “I would just love to have somewhere to go in the daytime, with friendly faces, tea, coffee and maybe a board game or pool table.

“If we have nowhere to go then we have no choice but to be on the streets. I know some the guys if they haven’t had a drink can actually become very ill.

“They can have seizures and all sorts. They actually need to have alcohol in their system to a certain extent to keep their bodies functioning properly unfortunately. Addiction in any form is an illness, and it’s a shame not many people look at it like that.

> “We were just waiting to be let into the night shelter in that photo, we weren’t sure what time it was going to be open. Sometimes they open at 7pm and sometimes it can be 10pm.

“What we have here is a misunderstanding, but the people of the town have been very good to us. We don’t do anything wrong, what people don’t realise is the lives that we’ve all lived.

“I’m still married and have two daughters. I had my own home and was self employed for nearly 30 years. I am staying at the Black Horse tonight and I think they are opening at 7 o’clock.

“If we had somewhere warm to go in the daytime with tea and coffee, then we wouldn’t be on the streets, it would help a hell of a lot.

“If you opened somewhere like that up it would solve a big problem. When you really look at it, we are displaced. For how long? Who knows.

“I know it will stop at some point with the right kind of help. I believe that the people of this town really want to help us and we really are thankful for that.

> “My family have only just recently been made aware of my situation, but what if they weren’t and they picked up that paper and saw me on the front. It felt like an invasion of my privacy.

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and we are too. When you live on the streets you know more about what goes on than most people. Drug pushers always target the homeless and vulnerable, that’s how these drug dealers survive.

> People are very quick to condemn but not all homeless people are drunken louts. There’s a famous saying from the Salvation Army ‘You are only 3 pay cheques away from being homeless’. A lot of us have very complicated backgrounds.

> “I wish there was more here, more than a roof over our head for the night. We need help changing our lives and help finding out where it all went horribly wrong, but the sad thing is none of this really gets followed through.

“Most of us fall through the gaps somewhere along the line and end up going back to the only way of living we know.. on the streets.

> “I don’t want to be here anymore, I want be up there in the next world. I think about it all the time.”

Lauren Janes, co-founder of the We’ve Got Your Back - Back Pack Appeal for the Leighton Buzzard and Linslade Homeless Community, said: “We see these men and women on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. They should be treated as equals.”