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Do not comment on homelessness unless you know what you are talking about

Murphy James

Murphy James

Do not comment on homelessness unless you know what you are talking about

In a time where street homelessness has increased by 130 per cent since 2010, you would think that we would be a little bit closer to forging a path for everyone to be helped in whichever way they require it, but no. Instead, we are finding that in Windsor, one of the UK’s most affluent towns, the bus stops are being occupied by those with no home to retire to, whilst a locally elected councillor refers to homelessness as a ‘commercial life choice’. This raises a lot of questions, none more important than, how can we allow ourselves to have a lead councillor that holds these vile and archaic views? 

The councillor refers to the Windsor issue as ‘vagrancy’, a term that was used to create the Vagrancy Act Of 1824 that means it is illegal to sleep rough or beg. He also points all of the blame towards Thames Valley Police for not acting in a more severe way by arresting and prosecuting these vagrants. I, on the other hand, thank TVP for showing their empathy and humanity to a temperamental situation.

As stated previously, it is the Vagrancy Act of 1824. It is soon to be 2018. If we are having to bring out a law that was created in the early 19th Century to back up ones opinion, surely one is just clutching at straws? Surely we realise that sleeping rough has complexities and as such there is no sole reason as to why one ends up in that position?

Said councillor has stated that he hopes we can sort out the problem in time for the Royal Wedding. Wouldn’t it be something if we could miraculously come up with a solution just in time for Harry & Megan’s big day? That would be remarkable, but for all the wrong reasons. 

Giving somebody a key to a front door does not solve all of their issues. It is just the start of a very long journey. The lack of self confidence, self esteem and self worth needed to sit in a doorway and be thrown 2p is unimaginable. We should be asking the people in this position why they are there? What can we do to help? How can we make you feel worthwhile so that you don’t have to quite literally place yourself lower than everybody else? Shouldn’t a councillor be in touch with the people whom most need their sway, regardless of a Royal Wedding? Shouldn’t the vulnerable be the highest priority of every council, regardless of a royal wedding? If they were, the whole borough would benefit in a plethora of ways but most importantly in having a happy and productive town where the divide of wealth does not affect ones mental and physical health in a purely negative way. 

There is no quick fix to this problem but there are starting points such as NOT allowing our elected councillors to speak with such distain, against a sect of people that cannot defend themselves and of whom he has absolutely zero knowledge. We can start by introducing a Windsor Shelter for local residents to be housed in instead of taking them away from the only thing they own, their feeling of community, whilst being given a pathway into housing, treatment services and education along the way. 

Instead of saying ‘we need to get these people into work’ we should be saying ‘we need to help these people get back on their feet and allow them to be the people they want to be. We need to build their self esteem to a point where they choose to go back to work’ because if we don’t, where are we heading? What happens next? 

We already have people reoffending in order to get a roof over their heads (in prison). We have people being released from prison with nowhere to go. We have people whose houses have been taken away from them for various reasons and are now classed as ‘intentionally homeless’ with no prospect of any housing at all. 

A person should be judged by their present, not their past. 

Even if somebody is housed from the street, they are, for all intents and purposes, dumped there and left to get on with it, some never having had to budget, pay bills, cook, clean etc. This often results in them feeling isolated, lonely and anxious which quite readily results in them returning to the streets to seek company and conversation. 

We also have a Mental Health System that does not cater for individuals that are using substances.

CMHT (Community Mental Health Team) do not work with anybody’s mental health if they are under the influence of substances as they say they cannot work with somebody who is not in a fully conscious state of mind. So let’s say, said person goes to the local drug and alcohol treatment centre, works hard and is now free of substances. At this point, the person should be picked up by CMHT. CMHT however, have a 2 year waiting list (9 months for children and adolescents). Said person is now experiencing all of the same feelings, emotions, voices etc. but with nothing to suppress them, so they return to substance misuse. 

The term ‘capacity’ is defined in a such a way that 80 per cent of people who need help from CMHT are rejected. They are rejected because they are seen to have ‘capacity’, when in actuality, the people working with these individuals can categorically tell you that they not only DON’T have capacity, but are often in a far worse state than they themselves are letting on. 

Our drug & alcohol team in the borough (Resilience) are an amazing bunch of people who care abundantly about their clients, but the procedure in which they are made to work is a generalised and somewhat disheartening one. 

Methadone scripting is essentially replacing one drug (heroin) with another drug (methadone) and then reducing the prescribed dose of methadone to zero over a period of time. Whilst this may work for some, it does not work for the majority. Every single person on the planet is different, yet we expect everybody to react positively toward a single method of treatment? 

These are just a few examples of the complexities of this situation and there are many more that I could add but the main points are these:

  • Please do not offer up an opinion on what homelessness is or is not, unless you know what you are talking about.
  • Please do not seek to provide the public with information on the situation, unless you know what you are talking about.
  • Refrain from tarring everybody with the same brush.
  • Please do not blame other organisations for having a sense of what is morally right.
  • If you don’t know the answer, find one that works or say nothing.

Vilifying the vulnerable is not the answer. 

Harping back to 1824 is not the answer.

The council are seeing pound signs, not people. 

What do you see?

Best Regards 

Murphy James - P.D.M
Windsor Homeless Project

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