A BLAZE of publicity surrounded the announcement of Metro Mayor Andy Burnham's second phase of his plan to tackle homelessness through the "A Bed Every Night" scheme. Under ­what has been described by his organisation as a flagship and groundbreaking programme there will be a place for every person seeking support. But what about the hidden homeless who are unable for whatever reason to access the services designed to support them, Saiqa Chaudhari reports.

SCHEMES such as "A Bed Every Night" make a difference to a small percentage of rough sleepers, says Billa Ahmed as he along with other volunteers open the Street Kitchen on Le Mans Crescent to provide meals and hot drinks for those without homes.

"A lot of the time the figures of people who are homeless on the streets are inaccurate.

"The only way you can find out the real homeless situation is by coming to organisations like us in Bolton, Manchester all over the UK who work at grassroots level, who don't get funding.

"When we were speaking to housing we told them there is a lot more hidden homeless that you don't know about because they are not engaging with you."

So in Bolton now, rather than sitting behind a desk, housing officers and representatives from Achieve, which provides support for those with drug and alcohol issues, come to the Street Kitchen to meet those in need of support in their own "comfort zone".

Billa, said: "A lot of homeless people have complex issues, whether it is mental health or other issues, they may not engage with organisations but here at the Street Kitchen they have gained trust with us.

"Now we have the housing, the drug team and now with St John Ambulance and they find it easier to approach them and it makes these services more accessible to them.

"Now with St John's Ambulance, the people are being checked for illnesses which would have otherwise they would not have known about.

"I'm just so happy that all this is taking place now."

The Bolton News:

The Street Kitchen runs four times a week, but the organisation Homeless Aid UK with its 300 volunteers provide food everyday in Bolton and beyond.

"We have seen homeless get worse over the last ten years, when we started there was only three four people now we have over 300 volunteers providing food and all over UK there are other charities.

"It is at the grassroots level that you get to see those people who are the true homeless, there are genuine homeless who are missing out they won't engage because of issues they may have."

Billa believes there Bolton is unique where representatives from different agencies are going out into the homeless community this way.

He said that a wide range of issues can lead to homelessness, from parents throwing their children out to relationship breakdowns.

Issues such as "extortionate" rents, poor accommodation to help with mental health and other issues and support in moving in all needed to be addressed to help those homeless.

David Thorburn has been living on the streets for six years, regularly sleeping in the town centre and is worried about winter and believes schemes such as "A Bed Every Night" don't include him.

He said: "My girlfriend left, I lost my house, I got into rent arrears. I have engaged with the town hall, the homeless places, I have stayed in a night shelters but have not had permanent accommodation since and because of that I cannot get a job.

"There is no hope in sight, I just keep being told to come back."

He said: "I think there should be day centres, there is nothing in the day time, if there was a day centre where we could get a meal and if housing were there and a nurse.

"I don't think I'm gong to make this winter, I can't cope now, I have had enough."

The Bolton News:

He questioned where the cash put aside to help the homeless is being spent.

"What have they done with the money, nothing has changed. I'm engaging with all the services I am supposed to do," said David, who was able to be checked over and have his feet checked.

Another man, who did not want to be identified said a relationship breakdown, led to him sleeping on the streets,.

He said: " I have been rough sleeping for 12 months. I was working before that

"The future is not looking good at the moment. I am being told there are no vacancies, more should be done if had not been for Billa, I don't what would have happened."

He said costs for a room with a shower and a shared kitchen could be £1,200 a month along with and additional surcharge, which would be paid by housing and called for the cost of places to be looked at.

"I am hoping something is gong to be done before winter," he said, "They have to make more accommodation available but some people do abuse it, and some of these places I would say wipe your feet on the way out."

The 48-year-old had his blood pressure and feet checked after getting trench foot from walking around in wet shoes.

Bolton Homeless Alliance was formed last year to support rough sleepers and those at risk of rough sleeping and to provide the services they need to be able to access permanent accommodation.

The alliance, which includes Bolton Council and Urban Outreach as well as grassroots organisations including Homeless Aid UK, also work with other agencies, including the health service to help those who are rough sleeping and reach the “hidden homeless”.

A spokesperson for the council said: “The issue of homelessness is very complex and we will always support those who are rough sleeping or at risk of becoming homeless.

“Sometimes one pathway may not be suitable for them for whatever reason so we will try another pathway.

“We work together through the Homeless Alliance and with other agencies, including Achieve and the NHS as some people who are homeless or rough sleeping have very complex needs.

“For us, it is not just a matter of finding accommodation for people - they are also supported throughout both with their health needs and practically.”