ROUGH sleepers and former rough sleepers in York have sent a clear message to council bosses who plan to end funding for the Salvation Army's 'early intervention' homelessness programme: don't do it.

The Press went to the Salvation Army's drop-in centre on Lawrence Street to speak to rough sleepers after it emerged no-one from the council had consulted them over the plans.

One 45-year-old - speaking under an assumed name as 'John' - told the Press he wouldn't be alive today but for the Salvation Army.

"I would have drunk myself to death," he said.

Rough sleepers knew that if you needed help, the Salvation Army was the place to turn, John said. "That's the word on the street – it’s always the Salvation Army."

Another former rough sleeper, Tony Carson, said he and his fiancé both probably owed their lives to the Salvation Army's Charlie Malarkey, who made contact with them when they were sleeping in a tent on Fulford Ings five years ago and helped them find a council flat.

York Press: Tony Carson outside the Salvation Army drop-in centre in Lawrence Street, YorkTony Carson outside the Salvation Army drop-in centre in Lawrence Street, York (Image: Stephen Lewis)

Joseph Clarkson, 33, added that the Salvation Army had twice stepped in to help him get his life back on track.

READ MORE: 'Without them I'd be in a box': York rough sleepers on Salvation Army

Dealing with the council could be very corporate and uncomfortable, he said. But calling in at the Salvation Army drop-in centre felt like visiting friends or family. "I often come here," he says. "I've found a lot of warmth. They understand."

Warehouse worker Mick, who ended up sleeping in his car after a relationship breakdown and was given a place in a NAPpad by the Salvation Army, said that until they intervened he had come ‘that close’ to ending his life.

He had a simple message to the council: "Do not end this service. If I wasn't talking to these guys, I would be in a wooden box now. They are brilliant."


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As reported in The Press the city council’s £95,000-a year of funding for the Salvation Army’s early intervention programme - which includes the drop-in centre and also sees members of the charity’s early intervention team out checking on rough sleepers at 5am five days a week - looks set to cease at the end of this month, after a one-month ‘transition’ period.

York Press: The Salvation Army's Charlie Malarkey doing an early morning check on rough sleepers in YorkThe Salvation Army's Charlie Malarkey doing an early morning check on rough sleepers in York (Image: Stephen Lewis)

The council says it will be increasing its own rough sleepers service under a new homelessness strategy, with the help of an extra £260,000 of government funding over two years.

It plans to expand its own team of rough sleeping ‘navigators’, start its own drop-in service for rough sleepers at the Peasholme Centre and also expand its ‘housing first’ programme, under which rough sleepers are helped into permanent housing and then supported to stay there.

Council assistant director Claire Foale said: “Alongside our navigators, our partners including North Yorkshire Police, York BID Street Rangers, Street Angels and our own officers are on York’s streets daily. They see and offer support to people sleeping rough. This is not a service we can afford to duplicate given the council’s current financial position.” But Steve Prenty, who has been sleeping rough for six months and is regularly checked on by Charlie Malarkey in the early hours, said talk of ending the Salvation Army funding 'beggars belief'.

"Charlie and Sarah and the rest do a fantastic job,” he said. "Why do they (the council) think they can do better?”

York Press: York Central MP Rachael MaskellYork Central MP Rachael Maskell (Image: Supplied)

York Central MP Rachael Maskell said: “These residents of York have such a powerful voice. We need to ensure that people with lived experiences are at the heart of all decision making.

“One thing is clear, the Salvation Army staff are utterly amazing in what they do when people are at their lowest. I will ensure that their expertise is valued.”