Problems as homeless people ‘sofa-surf’ to stay off the streets

Homeless people at the Clayton Brook Community House
Homeless people at the Clayton Brook Community House

Almost 20 homeless people are sleeping rough or on friends’ sofas in Clayton Brook, it has been revealed.

Volunteers at Clayton Brook Community House say they know of at least 19 people who don’t have anywhere to call home, and are ‘sofa-surfing’ from one friend to another to avoid sleeping on the streets.

Volunteer Donna Hussain said: “We only know about these people because they’ve told us while they’ve been asking for our advice about other issues, such as drug and alcohol-related problems, so this could just be the surface.

“It’s a real worry because they start seeing sofa-surfing as the norm, and they don’t know how to get out of it.”

The mum-of-eight added: “I feel very sorry for them because they’re not living in the right environment, but I can understand how it happens.

“It usually starts with some form of anti-social behaviour and people feeling forced out of their parents’ homes.”

Now, Coun Steve Murfitt is working with the community house and Chorley Council to try to find a solution to the problem.

He said: “There’s a real need to resolve this issue because the figures are staggering.

“Sofa-surfers may not be recognised as being homeless, but it’s very concerning that people are finding themselves in this situation.

“When you’re focused on where you’re going to sleep or get your next meal from, it’s very difficult to plan ahead.”

Coun Murfitt would like to see Clayton Brook get a short-stay hostel for people to sleep in.

“People need to know that there is help,” he said. “The community centre is great, but it’s limited in the support it can give.

“We want to raise awareness of this significant problem in the area and move forward with a proper solution.”

Chorley Council dealt with 755 advice cases between April 2010 and April 2011 (some people may have comtacted the council more than once), and there were 28 official homeless presentations.

Coun Alan Cullens, who oversees Chorley Council’s housing service, said: “At the end of last year, we were made aware of young people sofa-surfing and sleeping rough around Clayton Brook.

“We have since engaged with the local community centre in an attempt to gather information about the issue and the young people involved, and to find ways to tackle the issue.

“We have offered to run surgeries to provide housing advice at the centre.”

- To see what the homeless people have the say, see this week’s Guardian