Imagine living without a fire service? Or not being able to see a GP when you need to? So why do we think it’s OK for people to go without food or a home?
In the last couple of years, I’ve seen the number of rough sleepers escalate in Birmingham and we hear the same news from charities supporting the homeless throughout the country. In Birmingham’s case, the noticeable increase has come particularly since the newly elected mayor placed tackling homelessness in his first 100-day pledge.
I know this is far from a popular view, which is probably why it’s taken me a few years to get this down. Just why are there so many different charities supporting the homelessness. And if there re so many, why are the numbers increasing?
Any decent person must be horrified that members of our society going without, be it a home, food or care. And yet there are hundreds of charities from food banks to keep them going for another day, day centres where they can get a shower, to hostels that will keep them warm for one night to services that help them with housing and employment. Some are just for the young, some for all ages.
Have you ever asked that person that is hunched up outside in a doorway with a cup in hand why he doesn’t go to the food bank, day centre, hostel or any of the local homeless charities within walking distance? Every time I ask, the answer is drugs.
They don’t do drugs and are uncomfortable at being around people who do, so they stay away from those charities where they are known to be. They also get bullied. Just because someone is homeless, that doesn’t make them nice. There will be a small part of the homeless that are bad people just like in every other part of society.
I’ve worked with a few, donated stuff or time to most of the others as countless people have done. On a number of occasions I’ve seen groups of people take drugs, then walk straight into a homeless charity to obtain food and water (ironically I spotted this while facilitating in a hired room at an addictions charity opposite).
Of course, every person should be welcomed and supported no matter what their issues are, however, I draw the line if this is at the expense of others. I stopped supporting that charity long ago. Things may have improved, although my preference is just to hand out clothes and food directly to people in the streets I’m on nodding acquaintance with.
Pull the charities together, share resources and help everyone on the street with whatever they need, short term or long term, whatever their age or situation. Charities have all these passionate, caring and experienced people who specialise in various areas so let them reach all those in need.
Once upon a time education wasn’t free, until society realised we will only grow if we’re educated.
Then there was a time before the NHS was only the rich could afford medicine until we realised that was unfair too.
Now is the time - and I can’t quite believe I’m saying this in 2019 - to house and support fully, all of our rough sleepers.