Monday, 18 December 2017


Outside it’s 0 Centigrade. What my brother used to call ‘bracing’ and my wife calls ‘freezing and horrible’. As I sip mulled wine in front of a roaring log fire, enacting my own form of hygge, I am thinking about the homeless.

They’re not high on the government’s agenda. It’s claimed that numbers are falling but not in Brighton where they’ve doubled. The strategy here is to drive them off the streets. This weather obviously helps with mortality rates rising. A flu epidemic would work even greater wonders. Or we could herd them up and put them into old container ships in Shoreham Harbour. Anything we can do to remove them and their unsightly bundles from our shop fronts would be welcome to the sensitive amongst us who describe such people as ne’er-do-wells. The Council allegedly set about those miserable bundles of possessions and blankets last winter by seizing and destroying them.

Council branded inhumane for kicking rough sleepers out of their tents.
(Report Jan 1, 2017 - denied by the Council)

Some time ago I was in a meeting with someone who’d been made a Lord by Margaret Thatcher - she made all sorts of people Lords and Dames for agreeing with what she said. He said words to the effect that these ‘ne’er-do-wells’ were raking in more than he was in a year, that they kept a Mercedes around the corner from their pitch and were not paying tax.

Not those in Brighton mate. They have corrugated boxes if they’re lucky.

The £20 a day or whatever I give to these chaps maybe helps them a little and sometimes I even make them smile in conversation but it’s no kind of answer, nor does further emptying our bank account to redistribute to them worthy as they are. The problem is systemic. So long as we regard the homeless as human graffiti who are there on the freezing streets through their own life choices we are compromised as a civilised society.

We aren’t all intolerant like that. On Saturday we had our grandsons to stay. They are 9 and 11. We went out to buy some Cheerio’s for their breakfast early in the morning. It was bracing…no it was freezing and horrible. A bearded chap was sitting shivering in a doorway. The 9 year up went up to him and gave him his last 50p piece. The 11 year old asked if he could borrow some money from me and gave £2 to the homeless chap. His face lit up in a toothless grin as the two boys gave him the money and he gave them the thumbs up. 

Shortly afterwards the boys found a lot of coins on the ground dropped perhaps by a drunken reveller the night before, gathered them up with whoops and rushed back to our ne’er-do-well who was now doing just a bit better.

Wordsworth said the child is father of the man. Let’s hope so. We need to be kinder and more caring. On Saturday it was cold but it turned out to be a rather lovely morning after all. 

1 comment:

Ian said...

This is how a Canadian city approached the problem.