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Why more need a roof over their heads in Bradford
8:32am Thursday 2nd August 2012 in Behind the News
Over the past few years homelessness has been on the increase in Bradford.
Another report was published this week showing that over the past three years, 102 more families had been accepted as homeless by the local authority.
Jolts upwards in the figures are usually attributed to economic crisis, welfare cuts and changes to benefits payments. But is it a coincidence that since the European Union expanded to 27 member states in 2004 and 2007, homelessness in Bradford has increased?
More people from Eastern Europe are reportedly seeking help from aid organisations such as Bradford Day Shelter in Edmund Street, Hope Housing, the Soup Run, the Sunbridge Road Mission and Bradford Metropolitan Foodbank.
Last year, the Telegraph & Argus reported that Bradford Day Shelter, which provides meals for the homeless and helps them with accommodation, employment and education, had three language interpreters to help with the rising number of Eastern Europeans.
Lashman Singh, founder of the Curry Project more than 20 years ago, which serves hot meals to the homeless, said: “A lot of people from Eastern Europe are here. I was under the impression they have to have a job; but there are no jobs. We have had some really sad cases of families with no food. It’s heart-rending.”
EU law changed last May. Now migrants from other parts of the EU have to be self-sustaining for only three months instead of a full year, before they can apply for benefits and help from homelessness charities, said Helena Danielczuk, chairman of the Bradford Polish Federation. “That’s why the homelessness figures have gone up. These people were always there, but until the law was changed they were not included in any research, they weren’t counted,” she added.
Up to a dozen organisations in Bradford have a hand in helping or feeding the homeless. As Mr Singh says, Bradford is a good place for giving. But does the giving only deal with the symptoms of the homelessness?
“Of course,” said Keith Thomson, former head teacher, former Bradford Labour councillor and secretary of the Bradford Metropolitan Foodbank.
“But because we are human beings and are imperfect, and are greedy and selfish, we are going to get these inequalities. People at the bottom of the pile, in Slovakia, will come over here seeking help.
“You have to have a bit of get-up-and-go to leave your own country and go somewhere you don’t know. Life has changed, people don’t stay where they are born.
“We have a Polish cleaner. She has an engineering degree and runs a cleaning company in Bradford. She came over here because she couldn’t get a job in her own country,” he added.
Many migrants have benefited from being in the UK, and have benefited the country. Others, however, have come here for a variety of reasons.
Helena, whose parents settled in Bradford from Poland after the Second World War, said: “Some people have run away from court and got on a coach and come here. Because Poland is still a strict Catholic country that doesn’t approve of divorce, some have come because relationships have broken down.”
Others have arrived with the promise of job or the lure of an easier way of life. For some the reality has proved utterly different, as can be seen in the film The Not So Promised Land, made by the Bradford charity Hope Housing.
In 2010, Hope Housing was involved with 70 migrants from eight Eastern and Central European countries – a third of their clientele. Many had horrific stories of squalor and exploitation by the unscrupulous, for there is always money to be made from the vulnerability of strangers.
Given all this, is any good achieved by decanting problems from one part of the EU to another?
“Whether there is a balance or not, I wouldn’t like to say which,” said Helena. “I think it’s more beneficial for them to be here.
“If for one hour all the Eastern Europeans stopped work, Britain would stop because they do the low-paid jobs in manufacturing and service industries that indigenous people wouldn’t do.”
That assertion may be true; but it is unlikely to persuade those who remain convinced that the influx of EU migrants from poor countries has been more of a problem than a benefit.