At this time of year, the hard-done-by type stories get rolled out. Here’s one:
We have to be very sad about those who are sleeping rough on the streets, apparently. Indeed, in Liverpool we recently had the story of how sloping guarding metalwork was placed over the steps and doorways of buildings regularly used by rough sleepers, making them impossible to rest on. This moved the usual occupants on, getting them away from public view. It stopped the accumulation of rubbish, bottles of alcohol, needles, and human urine and faeces. Somebody has to clear this up every day, and it’s never the rough sleepers who bother.
Of course, this placing of the metal guard over steps and doorways previously used for sleeping in, was met with outrage and the shaking of jazz hands about how awful we were being to those poor unfortunate souls who have nowhere to live and so had to sleep rough.
Outrage built up and, bowing to public pressure, the sloping metal guard was removed, allowing the rough sleepers to move back in.
But, here’s the thing. The rough sleepers who normally occupy the steps of the building were offered accommodation, but turned it down.
Yes, to a man, woman, and non-binary, they refused the offer of somewhere warm to sleep. This is something that doesn’t fit the jazz hand outragers’ narrative. How can it be?
You see, it’s always ‘our fault’ that these poor things are sleeping rough, isn’t it! It’s to do with housing policy, or because the Conservatives don’t care. And the evil corporations. And, well, anything that lefties hate gets bundled in as the blame.
But, this is all not true. What is true is that most of these rough sleepers prefer rough sleeping.
It’s kinda complicated.
Well, a lot of them are extremely drug dependant. This makes them anti-social, argumentative, and seriously affects their personal hygiene. Most places that offer a free warm bed expect the takers to behave socially, and to keep things clean. This doesn’t fit in with the lifestyle of the majority of the rough sleepers. They cannot comply.
Those that might comply feel frightened and intimidated by the other aggressive occupants, and so the option to sleep rough seems safer.
And then there are the ones with mental health issues. It’s hard to separate these from the ‘druggies’, as both exhibit similar traits, and drug abuse can lead to mental health issues, mental health issues can lead to drug abuse, a continuous vicious circle.
Yeah, see, it’s a lot more complex than just blaming ourselves and raising jazz hands of outrage. You can’t just approach the problem with the offer of accommodation. You can’t just blame a housing shortage.
Yeah, you can score political points and look right on, but you don’t solve the problem. The rough sleepers need to be ‘fixed’, not the places where they could sleep.