The city council didn't ask York's rough sleepers what they thought about plans to end the £95,000-a-year grant for the Salvation Army's rough sleeping service. So The Press asked them instead. Here's what they said...

JOHN (not his real name)

The first time John met the Salvation Army's Charlie Malarkey was in the early hours of Christmas morning a couple of years ago.

John, now 45, was sleeping on a bench at the bus stop opposite the railway station: Charlie was doing his early morning walkabout checking on rough sleepers.

"Charlie came really early and woke me up!" John said. "I didn't know who he was!"

The pair had a 'lengthy chat' - and Charlie was able to get John a place in the Union Terrace hostel that very morning.

It had been the first time John had slept rough. But he admits his life had spiralled out of control. He was an alcoholic with a gambling addiction who had turned to crime to feed his habits. He'd had a flat: but had been due in court on December 23, and expected a long prison sentence.

READ MORE: DON'T cut Salvation Army funding, York rough sleepers urge council

So he ended his tenancy - and then his court case was adjourned. Suddenly, he had nowhere to go.

That Christmas Day encounter with Charlie helped him turn his life around, he says.

"I can't thank him enough," John said. "He stopped me from doing stupid things - from committing crimes to survive."

York Press: The Salvation Army's Charlie Malarkey checks out a popular location for rough sleepersThe Salvation Army's Charlie Malarkey checks out a popular location for rough sleepers (Image: Stephen Lewis)

He's now living in a hostel. An alcoholic and gambling addict for 20 years, he's now in recovery. He's hoping to get a flat - and then to work in hospitality.

But without Charlie and the Salvation Army, he says, he 'would not have been sitting here today'. "I would have drunk myself to death."

All rough sleepers know that if you need help, the Salvation Army is the place to turn, he says. "That's the word on the street – it’s’ always the Salvation Army."

So he has a simple plea to the city council about its plans to end funding for the Salvation Army's rough sleeping programme. "Think again.”


Tony says he and his fiancée Sue probably owe their lives to Charlie Malarkey.

The pair had run a restaurant in York together. But it didn't work out - and they were left destitute.

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)

With nowhere to turn, they went to the council for help, and were given a place in a hostel on Ordnance Lane.

But six months later the council declared them 'intentionally homeless' - and again, they had nowhere to go.

They spent 13 weeks living in a tent hidden in woodland on Fulford Ings.

Then they were put in touch with the Salvation Army. They spoke with Charlie on the phone - and the next thing they knew, they could see his legs marching along a path beside their tent, looking for them.

They talked: and Tony and Sue felt instantly they could trust Charlie. "He was like an old friend - like a bloke you had known all your life," Tony said.

Charlie approached the council on their behalf - and they were offered a flat.

That was five years ago. Tony now holds down several part-time jobs - and also volunteers at the Salvation Army.

But without Charlie, he says, he and Sue would probably have died in that tent on Fulford Ings.

No service offered by the council could possibly be the same, he says - people on the street don't trust authority.

The council should show more compassion. "And if they are going to cut the service, then at least they should speak to service users."


Joseph first came into contact with the Salvation Army in York almost 20 years ago, when they helped his mother, an alcoholic and heroin addict.

The charity got her a place in what was then the Arc Light hostel, and continued to support her while she was there. She'd regularly come to the charity's drop-in in Lawrence Street for a chat and cup of tea.

"They made my mum feel secure and safe," he says. "The Salvation Army and Arc Light were the two safe places in her life."

York Press: Joseph Clarkson, left, chats to the Salvation Army's Charlie Malarkey over a cup of tea at the drop-in entreJoseph Clarkson, left, chats to the Salvation Army's Charlie Malarkey over a cup of tea at the drop-in entre (Image: Stephen Lewis)

Joseph and his brother went into foster care. When he became an adult, Joseph, now 33, was given a council flat. But he found the responsibility of paying bills overwhelming.

He lost the flat, started sofa surfing - and, just as with his mum, it was the Salvation Army who stepped in and arranged a place for him at Arc Light.

He got his life back on track, trained as a plumber, and got a private rented flat. But it all fell apart.

He suffered from PTSD and other mental health problems. He went to see a doctor, was put on a 12-week waiting list for mental health treatment, and signed off work. But the benefits weren't enough to pay his rent, and he was given notice to quit.

He went to the council - but they told him he'd need to give up his dog, Laura, before they could help. He'd then need to spend six months in a B&B, another six months in a hostel, then six months in shared housing before he could be considered for a flat.

It was giving up Laura that was the worst, though - Joseph couldn't accept that.

Again, the Salvation Army stepped in. They arranged a place for him at the Changing Lives hostel on Union Terrace, where he could keep Laura.

He's now hoping to be considered for a flat - and his life is getting back on track again.

But he's still a regular at the Salvation Army drop-in.

"I've found a lot of warmth,” he said. “They understand.” Dealing with the council feels corporate and uncomfortable, he says. "Here, it feels like a family."

He doesn’t understand why the council want to stop funding the Salvation Army programme only to expand their own service. "Why shut one down to open another?" he said.

The Salvation Army in York have 20 years experience working with homeless people, he said. He's been through a lot of trauma - and has more than once phoned the council for help. "No-one phoned me back." But if you call the Salvation Army, he says, they always call you back.

If not for the Salvation Army and Citizens Advice, he says, he doesn't know where he'd be today. "I genuinely fear for future clients. I'm all for the council investing in homelessness - but they should be doing it alongside (the Salvation Army)."


Every night, Steve beds down in the city centre with his sleeping bag. He has a couple of favourite places where he can't be seen by passers-by.

He's regularly woken in the early hours by the Salvation Army's Charlie Malarkey. But he appreciates the fact there's someone looking out for him. "Charlie and Sarah (the Salvation Army's Sarah Pirie) and the rest do a fantastic job," he said.

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

Steve has been sleeping rough now for about six months.

It started a year ago, when he split up with his partner. He moved into a shared house - but there were problems. Steve worked late shifts at a York restaurant. He'd regularly come home to find one of his housemates drunk and asleep on the stairs, and would have to climb over him. One night they got into an argument - and Steve was told to leave. He's been on the streets ever since.

He doesn't drink or do drugs, and is 'too proud' to claim benefits. But he has restaurant skills, he says. So he's optimistic he can turn his life around.

As to the council planning to end funding for the Salvation Army's rough sleeping programme: it 'beggars belief', he says.

Charlie, Sarah and his team know and understand their clients. "Why do they (the council) think they can do better?"


Matty is currently staying at a privately-run hostel in the city centre, paying £10 a night. It's the only home he has - before that, he was sleeping in a tent on St George's Field.

He works on building sites, so he can pay his way. But to get his hostel place, he needed documentation from the council. He had a long meeting, gave them all his details, and arranged to go to West Offices to collect the documents. But when he turned up, he found officials had posted them to an old address he'd been evicted from weeks before after getting into rent arrears: something he'd told the council about. "It shows they don't listen," he said.

York Press: The Salvation Army's Charlie Malarkey checks on a rough sleeper living in a tent in YorkThe Salvation Army's Charlie Malarkey checks on a rough sleeper living in a tent in York (Image: Stephen Lewis)

The Salvation Army is different. There are a lot of people with mental health issues living on the streets, he says. "They won't got to anybody else because they feel comfortable around them.”

If the council insists on ending funding for the Salvation Army so it can develop its own rough sleeping programme, there will be more people on the streets, he said. Rough sleepers would find it hard to trust new people - and anyway have problems with authority. "Why mess about with something that's not broken?" he said.


Jay, now 21, was asked to leave his home at 15. He was placed in York's Howe Hill Hostel - but as he grew older, regularly found himself coming along to the Salvation Army's drop-in centre. They couldn't officially help him until he became an adult, however - and eventually, after leaving Howe Hill, he found himself sleeping rough on the streets for more than a year. "I tried to go to the council but got no help," he said.

As soon as they were able to, the Salvation Army helped him find a place in a shared house, and then a flat. But it all fell apart when he split up with his partner.

The Salvation Army came to his rescue again. "They put me straight into shared housing. If I had gone to the council they would have turned me away."

He's now living in a flat with his girlfriend and a young child, and working as a cleaner to support them all.

But without the Salvation Army, he says, he wouldn't have a life. "I would trust Charlie (Malarkey) with my life,” he said. “To the council, you are a number. Here, you are a person."

York Press: Life on the streetLife on the street (Image: Agency)


After a relationship broke down, Mick found himself sleeping in his car for three weeks. He didn't know where to turn, but a doctor he was seeing for mental health issues referred him to the Salvation Army. They found him a place in one of their NAPpads.

Mick, a warehouse worker, has lived all his life in York. But at rock bottom, he says, he came 'that close' to topping himself.

He's now staying with his son while he sorts his life out - and still regularly comes to the Salvation Army drop-in for a chat and cup of tea.

He has a simple message for 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."