Rough Sleeping

Rough Sleeping

I believe if there is one thing that the majority of people would agree with it is how a nation treats its most vulnerable that is a true measure of their humanity.

Never is it truer than the way those who have found themselves homeless and living rough on the street of the United Kingdom are being treated.

According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government the number of rough sleepers across the Midlands and North of England has significantly increased.

I find it absolutely fascinating and abhorrent that Government don’t appear to be in the least bit concerned that over 4,660 people are estimated to be rough sleeping on our town and city streets.

The Government of course (they would wouldn’t they) point to the fact that the number of sleepers across the South of England has fallen whilst conveniently forgetting to mention or acknowledge that across the Midlands and North of the England it increased by 16.8% last year.

The question is why has it decreased in the South and increased everywhere else.

Well to put it simply (and I recognise it isn’t a simple issue), the more affluent areas have seen a decrease and the poorer less affluent areas an increase.

A cynical person may even suggest that perhaps the £100 million of investment to reduce rough sleeping has been disproportionately spent in the Conservative heartlands in the south at the expense of the labour areas in the Midlands and North.

The problem is that a variety of studies has produced different results which is manly because of the difficulty in accurately counting the number of rough sleepers.

The Government as you would expect use the lowest estimated figure which they say shows that those categorised as rough sleepers has fallen by 8%,

In contrast charities, outreach workers, local authorities and the opposition argue that the data demonstrates the numbers are increasing nationally.

So whose interpretation is correct and does it matter?

The answer is that both are correct and both are wrong because statistics themselves are no indication of the scale of the issue.

What statistics do of course is give the politicians a rudimentary club with which to beat each other that in turn allows them to look concerned whilst ignoring the human cost of rough sleeping.

There is something wrong in a society that uses a “snapshot” of homelessness taken on a single day between certain times in the middle of the night to assess the scale of the issue.

There is something even more disgraceful and wrong in a society where politicians use the issue as a means of discrediting each other rather than working together to resolve the underlying issues that lead to homelessness and rough sleeping.

Surely in the 21st Century there should be the political and social will to embark on a national policy to ensure that all of those who need (and those who want) to have a safe environment and a roof over their heads to sleep actually have one.

Or are we now a society that is so callous and broken that like our politicians we simply no longer care?