Campsite is sign of our tough times

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A makeshift camp which has become home to a group sleeping there could become an common sight as people struggle to make ends meet, a charity has warned.

Charity Accommodation Concern is finding camps like the one between Kettering General Hospital’s staff car park and the Rothwell Road railway bridge every week and its head fears it will get worse.

Chief executive Rachel Wilson said: “Homelessness is common and it’s getting worse.

“It’s a combination of economic factors, including changes to benefits, a lot more repossessions and a huge amount of debt. People are really drowning in debt.

“I fear the number of people camping like this will get worse as house prices continue to rise.”

The charity, which supports rough sleepers in Kettering and Corby, has already helped house one person in the same copse and people camping on allotments in Polwell Lane, Barton Seagrave, last week.

It said an average of five people a night were sleeping rough in Kettering and Corby.

Kettering Council provided housing advice to people found camping on Weekly Glebe Playing Fields, Kettering, recently.

Accommodation Concern’s outreach worker Mike O’Gorman, whose role is funded by charity Crisis, said: “I’d say in general terms it’s on the rise as people are finding financial difficulties too much.

“People are finding it hard to move on because of problems with statutory or charity funding.”

Hospital staff said the campers, who have been there a month, speak a foreign language.

No-one was in the tents when a reporter and photographer from the Evening Telegraph visited but cooking pans were set on a log table near a carefully-built stone fire. The tents looked new and empty lager cans were collected in a bin bag tied to a tree despite the woodland being littered with rubbish.

One hospital staff member, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “Yesterday two women walked back to the camp with two bags of Morrisons shopping. I’m not an expert, but it just doesn’t look like the usual homeless people.

“Plus they are close to the railway line behind the safety fence. What happens if their things get onto the train line?

“I would think it could be very intimidating for staff late a night. In fact, people try not to park their car in that corner as they air their clothes and sleeping bag on the fence.”

The Department for Communities and Local Government has announced £240,000 will be invested across the county to prevent homelessness.

Last month, 11 Eastern Europeans were found living in a ramshackle, open air camp near the Barnes Meadow roundabout in Northampton and a second camp was uncovered on the site of the town’s former power station.

Ms Wilson said help for the homeless depends on their country of origin and whether they are eligible for benefits. Private landlords can be reluctant to house them because rent is unlikely to be paid.

Drug and alcohol addiction as well as relationship breakdown are still common causes of homelessness, but Ms Wilson said the charity had seen growing numbers of people over the past two years losing their homes due to redundancy.

It is understood Network Rail owns the land.

A borough council spokesman said: “Safety, given proximity to a busy main line is, obviously, of some concern. We are able to provide practical advice and assistance to people with an accommodation problem. Initially, we can offer a housing options interview at the municipal offices.

“Whether we are then ultimately able to provide housing depends upon the individual circumstances of each individual.”

No-one was available from Network Rail for comment.