A relentless campaigning pensioner has handed in a petition with more than 1,000 signatures calling on Northampton Borough Council to set up a safe area for rough sleepers.
Dagmar King’s latest petition calls on the authority to provide a ‘multi-agency’ solution to helping those who are not yet ready to leave the streets and enter into agreements with the town’s housing organisations and homeless shelters.
She has suggested a designated area for rough sleepers to set up camp, which would offer facilities such as toilets, showers and cooking facilities.
The 72-year-old is well known for her campaigning in the town. In 2017 she finally persuaded councillors to install two benches at the Victoria Street National Express stops after a petition with more than 500 signatures.
Now she has turned her attention to the town’s homelessness issues, and backed by twice as many people as she was before, she says for the council to do nothing in response to her latest campaign would ‘not be an acceptable response’.
Addressing councillors at the Guildhall on Monday evening (June 17), she said: “The first stage for many rough sleepers is a safe place where they can have access to facilities, because it’s not an easy life in which you can have a safe environment.
“What homeless people need is a transit facility where they can look after themselves, develop a routine and not feel like they have to cause a nuisance in the town centre.
“This petition is asking the council to provide leadership and provide a multi-agency solution. I trust that this council will rise to the challenge, as over 1,100 people have signed this petition, and we all believe that to not do anything would not be an acceptable response.”
Dagmar, from Abington, is playing a part herself in attempting to tackle the problem. She delivers her home-cooked pastries to rough sleepers, and is starting a new project to make bags for female rough sleepers that would contain sanitary towels, wet wipes and deodorant.
She believes that the council needs to put in place a process for a ‘slow transition’ for rough sleepers from the streets to a place that they can call home. She says that many won’t enter the borough council’s shelter schemes as they won’t be able to drink there, and that they can’t yet commit to the rules required to stay there.
The Hope Centre has already came out against Dagmar’s idea, with chief executive Robin Burgess previously saying: “If you just accept that homeless people are going to sleep in unsafe and unsightly tent villages we really have given up on any social justice – that these people deserve a proper home.”
But Dagmar replied: “It is no good saying we have facilities for the homeless, they are not working as can be seen from the number of tents in and around the town centre. The town centre will benefit and the lives of these rough sleepers can start to improve but not if we just wish the problem would go away. A little more effort and we will all be winners.”
Now that the petition has been handed in Dagmar will be dedicating plenty of her time to keeping councillors on their toes and ensuring that they properly look at the idea.
She added: “You bet I’m going to keep them all occupied with this. I may have one foot in the grave, but I’m keeping the other foot well out for as long as it takes!”