AN OLDHAM doctor is urging the Government to use the New Year to find a sustainable solution to homelessness.

Dr Zahid Chauhan, who set up Homeless-Friendly with NHS Greater Manchester practices, has produced a UK Parliamentary petition to persuade politicians to act.

“The UK Government is totally behind-the-door when it comes to homelessness” said Dr Chauhan.

“The Welsh Assembly Government and the Mayor of Manchester have already made firm commitments on homelessness – but what has Westminster done?

"I see the physical, emotional and mental torment homeless people are going through on a daily basis and am minded that the average life expectancy of a rough sleeper is just 47 years-of-age.”

Dr Chauhan set up Homeless Friendly after rough sleepers reported that they couldn’t get healthcare because they lacked a permanent address.

GP practices, out-of-hours services, walk-in centres and even hospitals have since amended their practices because of the programme – persuading Chauhan to expand the scheme to other organisations. Charities, councils and even eateries such as Café Lahore on Union Street, have since joined the ranks and he now wants this “cultural change towards the homeless” to pervade throughout society.

“We have seen all kinds of initiatives across Oldham during the festive season, including many Christmas dinners and presents for the homeless, but random acts of kindness and giving money to street beggars makes very little change” said Dr Chauhan. “Backing campaigning charities and giving time to actually speak to the homeless is more beneficial as is badgering politicians to come up with a quick but robust solution to the problem.”

In his petition to the UK Parliament, Chauhan calls for; an enquiry into the roots of homelessness; the creation of more affordable housing; training programmes to prepare homeless people for life and work; an end to cuts to addiction services and mental health provision for rough sleepers and; laws giving homeless people the right to the same public services the rest of society enjoys.

Dr Chauhan continued: “Primarily, I want to see homeless people recognised as part of our society. I want them to know they have a voice and are valued by all of us. At this moment in time we don’t even have an accurate picture of exactly how many people are actually homeless. There are not just rough sleepers but young people escaping domestic violence and staying at friends’ houses and families living in often squalid temporary accommodation because of high rents." Until a survey pointed out the

Homeless-Friendly requires 10,000 signatures to get a response on the plight of rough sleepers from Government and then 100,000 names to get the problem considered for debate by MPs. Sign the petition by visiting