Sleeping rough is a personal choice

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.

sleepersOf 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.

One comment

  1. A few years ago, I was homeless for 6 months or so and I was helped by an English Churches Housing hostel in Cambridge who survived on taking all your benefits & giving you back £15 a week pocket money, all food included. When I realised that I had nowhere to live and that I hadn’t got enough money to rent anywhere, I slept in an old car for a week, which was cold & uncomfortable. I had some self-employed work with the promise of more, but the only solution to my homelessness seemed to be to stop working, go on the dole and use the homeless hostel. The DSS told me that I had to stop working to claim housing benefit.

    I spent my first night in a shared room with a nice enough bloke called Pete. My sleep was disturbed when the police arrived to take him back to Lewes prison from where he had absconded from his life sentence for a double murder. The hostel had lots of nice people in it. Some were ex-soldiers who had gone home after discharge to find themselves cuckolded, divorced and with potentially hefty child support bills, so they just went on the run from their altered reality. Quite a few were shop doorway dossers who had become (or made themselves) seriously ill and been discharged from the hospital into the hostel. All would go begging with their mates as soon as they were well enough, get drunk (or high) and eventually get thrown out of the hostel from drunken (or drug induced) abusive behaviour. Most of them were really nice people, but they had found a lifestyle they preferred – funded by the tax payer and kind donations from passing public who had ” any change, please”.

    There were teams of people in the hostel dedicated to rehabilitating anyone that would listen to their Christian happy clappy nonsense & psycho-babble, visiting therapists, doctors, nurses, away days in a mini-bus to more therapy sessions. Strangely, not one of the dozens of dossers that passed through, after being found lying dying in the snow, repaired & discharged for rehab, would take part – all were just anxious to get back on the street with their mates, booze & drugs.

    Their psycho-babblers eventually decided that I was beyond help & found me a flat share with a local housing association and eventually I got on with my life. I did spend some time with the dossers that I befriended in my stay at the hostel, not long enough to get “sucked in”, but enough to discover what great camaraderie they had with each other and what a wide network of “mates” and information on where to doss & beg in almost every major town in Britain and where to get handouts & hot meals from the do-gooders (who they largely held in contempt).

    So, yes indeed!


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