The Perception of Homelessness within Cities

Homelessness within cities is something that has always been an abstract concept to me, and an issue that had little relevance as the first 18 years of my life were lived in a town. My initial years were spent in Worksop, a relatively small town with a population of around 50,000. Whilst walking through the town centre, the feeling is one of a neglectful nature. There are certain parts of the city that are derelict, and this is where many of the homeless reside. However, as aforementioned, this part of town is neglected and is somewhat out the way of the town centre, and therefore, homelessness isn’t an immediate problem within Worksop as they are generally in this area and rarely venture out into the town centre.

Worksop Town Centre

In 2016, I moved to Derby for University and the homelessness within the city limits were not a concern for me. When deciding which university to attend, Derby was in my plans as my perception of the city was a very positive one, even though I had only visited once for the open day and we did not explore the city centre. Upon moving to the city, which has a population of around 248,000, I had an urge to explore this new city and was excited to see what it had in store.

My first perception of the city, when discovering the centre for the first time, was that the city buildings were somewhat archaic and old fashioned. However, they were rather picturesque and interesting to explore. The first negative of the university experience for me was seeing the amount of homeless there were in the city centre. We walked down Iron Gate, the main street in Derby’s city centre, and I witnessed multiple homeless people laying in doorways and sleeping on benches. When I saw these people, there was an overwhelming sense of guilt. This guilt was based on the foundation that I would be going back to an accommodation with heating and food to eat, whilst these people had presumably no shelter and no food or drink.

There was no prior conception that the homelessness rate was this bad in Derby, I heard no information that Derby was increasing in the number of homeless people per year until I moved to Derby and did some research into the subject. I found that in Derby from 2013 to 2014, figures show that the rate of homelessness had tripled within one year. The figures also showed that 769 individuals or families were made homeless within 2014, and this is triple the number of individuals and families that were made homeless within 2013. These statistics are alarming and there definitely should be some action taken to reduce these numbers, however, for people who don’t live in and around Derby, especially around the area I grew up, the perception of Derby for the majority, is that it is a quaint city with historic buildings, which is true, however, the rate of homelessness within Derby should have more awareness.

For many, the higher the rate of homelessness within a city, correlates with the crime rate within a city. There have been several occasions when I have been alone, or with friends and we have witnessed homeless people dealing drugs in the open in the middle of the day. This was in the entrance to the Intu Centre, in the middle of the city centre, in which children and their parents cautiously walked past. On another occasion, we witnessed an assault that happened in a certain part of the city centre in which many of the homeless people reside. Finally, there was a video that circulated online of a homelessness teenager who had taken some illegal substance and was screaming and in a state of hysteria on the floor whilst having to be restrained by law enforcement. There are a many different examples from people who have had negative encounters with homeless people within Derby city centre. This could be a determining factor when it comes to the relocation of a family or an individual, for example when moving to university, and personally, I think the problem of homelessness within Derby needs highlighting and exploring to find possible solutions to make the city a safer community.

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