Sleeping rough

Most people agree we need to do better when it comes to helping people to have a bed for the night and a roof over their heads. There has been a rise in rough sleeping in recent years. The government agrees, has provided more money and announced new initiatives to get the numbers down.

The state can provide hostel spaces. It can do more to provide temporary housing for people whose lives have run into difficulties, whilst they get themselves back into work or a better routine for living on benefit whilst they seek employment. The problem it encounters is that so often rough sleeping is not just an issue of someone short of cash or temporarily out of a job, of someone who has fallen out with their family or suffered from the cancellation of a tenancy. It is often a deeper seated problem to do with drugs, drink, or mental health issues.

Where the person understands the problems they are in sufficiently to want help it is easier for the state to offer that helping hand, and a scandal if it does not. Where a person fears the state hostel because it would require them to volunteer to get off  drink or drugs, or to conform to rules they do not like, the state has to decide how far to go in requiring people to leave the pavement bed.

The state has powers if the person is mentally ill and can be sectioned. It has powers if there is any suggestion of disorder or criminal offences. Each time there is a difficult judgement to be made about someone who is vulnerable and living in a way which the rest of the world worries about.

These complex cases are beyond most of us who are concerned and would like to help, which is why we expect the state to use its considerable resources and legal powers to act instead of us. Many people do find accommodation or could find accommodation within their own network of family and friends. There we can all help when need arises. When a member of my family lost their job and home together, I provided them free board and lodging in my spare bedroom at home whilst they  found another job. After a few months  they were  able to take on the financial commitment of a new home. Many families do the same.  Most people sleeping rough are someone’s son, brother, nephew, father (or daughter, sister, niece, mother)  whose families might be able to help. Most families or networks of friends have someone in them with a spare room.  Where the person’s problems are such they cannot get along with any former family member or friend then the state needs to step in as the last resort with the powers that might be needed.

Any family that has an estranged family member sleeping out could at least help the state help them, if they can no longer help them within the family. More knowledge of the circumstances and problems of the person must be helpful to those trying to decide what measures are needed to persuade that person to go back to a life which includes a bed and bedroom.


  1. Fedupsoutherner
    February 4, 2019

    What a great post John. There are many reasons why people find themselves homeless. A close member of my family had been made redundant from the RAF and at the same time his marriage broke up. His wife was rehoused by the council as they had a small daughter but he found himself homeless and phoned me out of the blue from Victoria station asking for help. I gave him a room and board for a few months until he got a job with accommodation but it transpired he had mental problems too. This has only recently been diagnosed as a form of autism and Aspergers which has often made him suicidal. We do need to help people but also help them with underlying problems they may have which are out of their control. When we go on about the numbers though I believe they are underestimated as it is difficult if they are on the move. It is a problem also if they are illegal immigrants especially if they are from a country where there is no civil unrest and they have chosen to be here. They are not our responsibility.

    1. Merlin
      February 4, 2019

      Good article – and refreshing to see something non-Brexit related.

      I agree with you about homelessness being a complex issue. Every person is different and drugs or mental health issues are so difficult to solve.

      I think your point about the importance of the family and helping each other. Just like the Roman Fasces, a single stick may be weak, but as a bundle we are stronger.

      1. Narrow Shoulders
        February 5, 2019

        8 of the previous 17 articles were local or non leaving the EU related

      2. Adam
        February 5, 2019

        Every one of us is dependent on many other people, whether it is someone to drive the train we ride, produce our food, or perform any of the services to sustain our existence.

        Some people lose their family owing to many unfortunate circumstances, yet the notion of having no friends is a result largely of individual choice. Each day, virtually every person has the choice to assess their shortest path to better, & decide what to do next.

        Confrontation with homelessness presents risk & awkwardness; yet those who have lived within a civilised society for 25+ years & have no friends willing to assist them may have made many bad choices repeatedly through their lives. Our Govt can assist, at our expense, but those who are not mentally ill should act to help themselves first.

  2. Lifelogic
    February 4, 2019

    Indeed it is usually deeper seated problems of drugs, drink, mental health issues and often all three.

    The state as you say has powers if the person is mentally ill and can be sectioned. It also has powers if there is any suggestion of disorder or criminal offences. But the default position of the police/authorities (I have found over many years) is to do nothing if they possibly can get away with doing nothing.

    Many people pretending to be rough sleepers are actually just professional beggars topping up their benefits (at peak times and places where plenty of people are about) then they go home. They are nearly all gone in the small hours. Brighton for example was packed full of these last time I was there. Most of these people should surely be stopped and made to get a job.

    Even when someone was actively threatening others people with a large knife (in my direct experience) the police still did absolutely nothing of any value. “A mental health issue – so a different department” was their excuse to do nothing. The LEA & social services also did nothing. Unless they actually kill someone (then perhaps they might do a bit more) – but rather too late for that unfortunate victim.

    1. Everhopeful
      February 4, 2019

      We had a poor,cold bloke in our porch one night. Gave him a blanket and a cup of tea. He was somewhat “out of it” ..drink or something . Phoned the police thinking they would help him ( warm cell and meal ) but no…the policeman who came turfed him out with instructions to go to the station and get the 4am train.
      I told policeman how disgusted I was…he shrugged.

    2. Stred
      February 4, 2019

      The NHS mental care professionals and GPs are often unwilling to diagnose mental conditions or forcibly treat them, often leaving the person with the condition to be a danger to themselves and others. A person known to me has lived alone for forty years and has eccentric hobbies, once attempted suicide and is attacked by vile neighbours. Writing to their GP is no help. They will not admit a past mistake, even when their patient clearly has autism. Psychiatrists seem to have a belief that mental illness is just a way of life and should not be compulsorily treated. This applies to homeless people with autism, bipolar and schizophrenia too.

      1. Lifelogic
        February 4, 2019

        The highest taxes for 40 years but so very little by way of public services of much real value actually delivered.

        1. Merlin
          February 5, 2019

          It’s true that public services are stretched. But there is great pressure to spend public funds on the N.H.S and pensions at the moment, seemingly to the exclusion of all else. This seems to be pandering to the grey vote … and perhaps correctly judging by what happened to May when she tried to remove the triple lock.

          It is unfortunate for those who are not retired, of which you may be one.

  3. Mark B
    February 4, 2019

    Good morning.

    I would like to thank our kind host in raising this issue and writing so well on it. The issue is indeed complex and does require State intervention. And as many here know I am no great lover of State intervention but, the State does have the apparatus, the resources and the power to make effective change.

    I have noticed that, not only the number but, the kind of people that are becoming homeless. More and more women and those from ethnic backgrounds are making up the numbers. They do indeed have problems but, we should not see them as a problem. To that end I believe local government should be mandated to assess the number of people living in their boroughs and, to provide suitable shelter for them.

    There are indeed those that simply cannot be helped. Their problems are simply too deep and the life that they have chosen is the life that best suits them. But there are those that have fallen through the net and need help getting themselves back on their feet.

    If we were to give one years worth of overseas money to tackle this we would make a huge change to some people’s lives and, be rewarded by having active and productive people back into society. I cannot think of a better use for this money.

    1. L Jones
      February 4, 2019

      Good point, Mark B. The issue of foreign aid has been rather pushed into the background with all the talk of handing over nearly £40 billion to the EU for nothing at all (or as a bribe, or Dane geld, which is even worse).
      We should spend our own money on our own problems before trying to help other countries – if indeed it IS helping them.
      When we fly we are told we should don our own oxygen mask first before trying to help others.

  4. Dominic
    February 4, 2019

    In the final analysis the will to change the course of your life must come from within. Those sleeping rough must themselves want to leave the ‘community of the street’ and return to a more normal routine. They must be encouraged to take responsibility and take control of their circumstances. It cannot come from outside intervention alone.

    Since the early 1980’s we have seen a concerted political attack on the very nature of personal responsibility and self-reliance by the pernicious left. Inculcating within people the idea that they are not somehow responsible for the direction in which their lives take them. Sometimes, our lives are impacted by forces outside of our own control (family breakdown, a death, unemployment) but as adults we must stand up, embrace the responsibilities of being an adult and ensure the left’s objective of State dependency is avoided at all costs

    The State and the person involved must enter into an agreement that allows rehabilitation but the emphasis must be on the person involved to take responsibility going forward. A program of self-improvement targeting self-belief, confidence, life-coping skills and help with housing and employment.

    We have all seen since 1997 a massive expansion of client state politics construction as Labour abuse the taxpayer to build a State that panders to Labour and for all there warm words about helping the vulnerable and providing a safety net the left and indeed Labour have used the concept of poverty and compassion as mere propaganda tools to bash the Conservative. Labour’s aim is simple. It is the use and abuse of the taxpayer to change the fundamental nature of each British person to create an army of expectant dependents bringing them under political control and influence from the left

    Homelessness can only be tackled if the homeless accept help. Some won’t accept it. They must embrace that help. No one can afford to listen to the left and the mantra that someone else is too blame. It matters not if someone else is too blame. Only you can truly help yourselves and the realisation that Labour will abuse any issue relating to so called social issues to expand their political influence should imbue us all with the desire to prevent Labour from trying to turn each person into fertile political capital

    The Tories must stop Labour from turning each person into political capital for the left and you start by focusing on the importance of self-reliance, personal responsibility and depoliticisation of our culture

  5. Everhopeful
    February 4, 2019

    Yes well…mass immigration and the closure of perfectly good mental hospitals ( acres of building land y’see ) didn’t exactly help!
    And who is to say that even money can solve the problems of deracination ( that little hobby so beloved of governments) and the terror of hostels which I believe are now regarded as dangerous places ..even the street being safer.
    Not to mention the fact that successive governments have bent over backwards to destroy families and society ( we now have to reinvent that do we?). Some families do not even speak to each other let alone offer accommodation.
    We no longer have the poll tax but for the average person another bed to find,another mouth to feed is a very big ask.
    I would say to the government “ You break it,you own it.” …if they care in the slightest that is!

  6. Al
    February 4, 2019

    I think you have forgotten that many causes of homelessness aren’t so simple. For example, the issue of child abuse, which is not ‘one person not getting along with their family’, it is the entire family and often friends network not getting along with the person. It’s almost impossible to prove, and as the entire family is either involved or enabling they’ll deny everything. The rest of the family is often outwardly normal: see scapegoating.

    Setting strings like mandatory treatment means a person (particularly those with paranoia) won’t go near a hostel to be assessed for treatment or sectioning. The state is what they usually fear – forcing them into contact with it (e.g. sectioning) makes things worse and ensures they will stay on the street in future.

    As our local church and shelter does, if you want people off the street, supply a bed, no strings, no questions asked. Once someone is comfortable and safe there, you can leave the options available for them to contact people who can help them and support them to do it – but if trying to force it on them isn’t helping. Many have very good reasons to avoid the local authorities and social services – loss of rights, moved on by violence, and box-ticking being just a few.

    And if someone is on the streets due to a job loss, that’s a national shame.

  7. sm
    February 4, 2019

    I blame much of the problem, where it is mental-health related, on the rise of the theory of ‘Care In The Community’.

    Yes, the old-fashioned asylums had many serious faults, but there were also benefits for many patients. Instead of attempting to modernise such facilities both in terms of care and actual buildings, the US-based professional advice, adopted by the UK psychiatric profession, was to shut them down (and please note, this began long before the 80’s). The police often have to cope with people having temporary bouts of mental ill-health, and can now only take them to A&E or put them in police cells – both are utterly undesirable for obvious reasons.

    I attended many Health meetings during the period that Care In The Community was being introduced and more asylums being closed; I recall a highly-experienced senior psychiatric
    nurse sourly commenting at the end of one session: “Mark my words, they’ll be sorry soon and one day they will have to start opening ‘the bins’ again”.

    1. Lifelogic
      February 4, 2019

      Much truth in that. The government seem to have decided it is cheaper to have these people “in the community” and accept all the murders, assaults, injuries, suicides and problems that directly result from this policy.

      1. sm
        February 4, 2019

        The government(s) have simply followed professional advice, LL – you know, “the experts know best…..”. Some of us tried to point out the likely problems, but were treated as though we were recommending a return to asylum inmates being chained to walls in Bedlam.

  8. Shieldsman
    February 4, 2019

    The problems that bring about rough sleeping are not new. The base problem has to be in the increase in the population. Facilities and carers never catch. Sufficient money is never available.
    Why do we have a pig-headed Parliament that jeeps throwing foreign aid around. Charity begins at home.

  9. a-tracy
    February 4, 2019

    My working-class family help each other out we’ve had people made homeless in the family, business failure, relationship breakdown, losing job and income to pay rent, moving into a new area to try to find work and need to save up the month’s deposit on a rental flat and the family always help them out even if it is only sleeping in the lounge on a blow-up mattress for a few months. These members of the family often take 2 to 3 small jobs whilst looking for the main income role to not be a burden. However I do know people who have lots of children out of wedlock when they get to 18/19 benefits stop, they get kicked out because if they have a small job the parents’ benefits get hit and there are council tax implications if there is an earner in the home, a new man can come on the scene and doesn’t want young adult offspring from previous relationships around, where do they go when there is no grandparent to take them in or the grandparent is on benefits and can’t afford to lose benefits to take them in. We need more student dig type buildings for discarded teens who aren’t in University but need low rents with low Council tax contribution.

  10. a-tracy
    February 4, 2019

    When people say drugs aren’t a problem and they should be legalised so that the taxes can pay for those that fall between the cracks, I used to disagree with this, but as with cigarette taxes perhaps a legalising crackdown on drugs with a tax to pay for drug-induced problems would be useful for the government and rather than the burden falling on everyone it should fall on the drug taking community. The downside to this is would it just encourage more use and more problems, especially to impressionable teens at University, often one of the things that stop people pressing drugs on to teens is that they can turn around and say it’s illegal I’m not interested.

    1. Lifelogic
      February 4, 2019

      I struggle to make up up my mind on drug legalisation, about the only such issue. They are so readily available anyway they might as well be legal, taxed and with reliable quality controls and less drug related crime and pushers. They cannot even keep them out of prisons after all. But then again if they were legal more people would surely try them and this get hooked.

      1. Iain Gill
        February 4, 2019

        Cannabis has been legalised in Canada, whatever the outcome we can learn from this experience.

      2. Adam
        February 5, 2019

        If illegal drugs are so readily available the sources should be easily detected. If incidents of drug taking were reported & authorities acted to remedy each instance, it would not prevail. The problem is recklessly tolerated.

  11. Ronald Olden
    February 4, 2019

    It’s difficult to disentangle involuntary homelessness from voluntary homelessness.

    Towns where extra facilities are provided merely attract more homeless people.

    Seaside towns in particular, are attractive places for people on benefits to go, and because there’s more to being happy than just maximising income, the people who migrate there from other parts of the country, are, once housed, comfortable even on low wages.

    So if you’re young and fit, and either genuinely homeless or merely want to live somewhere else, why not migrate to a seaside town in the summer and sleep rough, hoping that in due course you’ll be housed.

    On the other hand there’s also ‘hidden homelessness’. The fact that someone isn’t sleeping on the street doesn’t mean they aren’t ‘homeless’.

    They might be sleeping on someone’s floor or living in badly abusive household. The drug, alcohol, and mental health issue is also always present. Usually it’s only possible to help people when the person is ready to be helped.

    It’s difficult to know what John Redwood means by the state ‘requiring people to leave the pavement bed’.

    How is the state going to do that? Lock them up? In which case they’ve then been housed and might well be delighted, but when released are back to square one. And the financial, social, and moral cost of doing it that way, is astronomic.

  12. Ian wragg
    February 4, 2019

    My wife and I work for the charitable sector. We see lots of homeless and a good many don’t need help. They get a food parcel and sell the contents to buy booze. One was provided with a lovely flat which he trashed.
    You can tell the ones who want to move on. Their attitude is entirely different, if you kit them out and find them a bed many take any job to support themselves.
    It’s heartwarming when a success story comes years later and makes a donation and thanks us.

  13. Bryan Harris
    February 4, 2019

    Why do we always try to treat the effects of something, rather than seeking the source of the problem and fixing that…. So many homeless is a symptom of a society that is not working, on many levels – What is going wrong, apart from a lack of morals, or even no-hope for the future?

    “The state has powers if the person is mentally ill and can be sectioned.”
    Sectioning is not just a bad practice, where an individual’s rights are taken away at the discretion of a doctor, it means the person can be treated in any way determined by the locked hospital he is incarcerated in, without any say by that individual – barbaric, YES, and there are better ways to help people with mental problems.

    1. forthurst
      February 4, 2019

      A relation of mine was killed by a psychotic who had failed to take his medicine; a young woman of nineteen had her life taken away by Care in the Community: you cannot reason with psychotics because they are literally mad. Unless there is some way of ensuring that psychotics take their major tranquillisers, they should be locked up for the safety of the Community.

      As to the wider issue of homelessness, this is also largely a result of government policy: importing millions of people who do not need or want, giving them priority of resources including housing, undermining marriage by deprecating the role of men to the nuclear family through the promotion of Feminism and allowing men to walk away (not infrequently abroad) from their responsibilities leaving the taxpayer to their children’s upkeep etc.

      1. Bryan Harris
        February 5, 2019

        I don’t accept that psychotics kill because the patient stopped taking their Psychotropic drug: (Any drug capable of affecting the mind, emotions, and behavior).
        Psychotics rarely kill before they are made to take psychiatric drugs – In all cases I have seen they kill after being prescribed these awful drugs.
        The humane thing to do for people on the street with mental problems is to find them a nice comfortable and safe space, feed them well, and watch them closely, but ensure they are checked out physically for any serious body problems…

        1. forthurst
          February 6, 2019

          Your comment is ignorant and insulting as well as being entirely devoid of any scientific basis for your claim but that is so typical of people who for political reasons like to blame any act of criminality on an exogenous rather than an endogenous cause.

          1. Bryan Harris
            February 6, 2019

            I assure you I have good reasons for saying what I did, but you display ignorance by your attitude and an inability to grasp a different concept…

  14. SecretPeople
    February 4, 2019

    You may remember Ed Milliband famously having no change for a street person in Manchester. As I recall it turned out that young Romanian person was of school age and should have been at school. She was staying with her aunt, a Big Issue seller, who would have attracted tax credits and support with rental payments. So while the young person was a beggar, she wasn’t homeless.

    When I was young and idealistic I used to chat to street people buy them a hot drink and a meal and find out a bit more about them. There were certainly beggars who had home to go to, but there were a small number of people for whom living on the street and rough sleeping was a choice. One lady – classic bag lady with a shopping trolley and loads of blankets – told me she had a flat but didn’t like staying inside, preferring to be outside and watch the world go by. A gentleman I met in recent years had taken a vow of poverty. he always had a bag full of sandwiches people had bought him, but he himself never asked for anything, though he would chat about Jesus’ life and sometimes accept a cup of tea. I’m not saying some traumatic event or issue in these people’s lives hadn’t led them to where they were, but it was a choice that suited them. Nor am I saying that this is the case for all rough sleepers. Young people worry me most – leaving care or unable to live with parents – and war veterans, often with PTSD and unable to rejoin society.

  15. Andrew
    February 4, 2019

    State controlled MoDular Eco-Geo-Dome-Homes utilizing 13,000 institutionalised former MoD homeless combined with Operation Hackney Carriage provides the benefit we would like to see as a referendum dividend.

    £39 billion can provide the EU with mortgage repayments or we could invest in our own needs.

  16. Alan Jutson
    February 4, 2019

    This is a rather more complex issue than at it first it looks.

    Having worked as a volunteer for over 30 years within a local charitable organisation there is not a simple solution, many people fall through the so called safety net of State help, whilst others are not prepared to help themselves at all, and simply want as much State help as they can get because they choose not to want to work.

    Causes are many and varied:
    Councils not willing to act until bailiffs arrive, even when pre-warned by a resident with an eviction notice that they are about to be made homeless..
    People with Mental health problems, failed because of not enough staff to run so called care in the community as it was originally planned.
    Drink and drug addicts allowed to roam at will by the police.
    Professional beggars who seem to earn more by appearing to be homeless, than actually doing a job of work.
    The complexity of the benefits system, who few really understand, even on occasion those who actually work for the system.
    The failure of a system which allocates Budgets, and when its gone its gone, so staff try to protect those budgets, the original problems sometimes caused by another department attempting to do exactly the same.

    Certainly we need to try and promote self help wherever possible, otherwise the State or Local Councils could be flooded with people who simply cannot be bothered, indeed some families could and perhaps should do more to help those family members who have fallen upon hard times, be it health, financial or un-employment.

    Thus the solution is probably to provide very, very basic, but safe accommodation to those in genuine need, with experienced mentors who know their way around the system helping them to get back on their feet.
    Quite what time limit (if any) should be put upon such help, is open to question..

  17. Iain Moore
    February 4, 2019

    I gather quite a few of these homeless people are foreign nationals, we are never told the numbers, but I have heard to could be as much as 55% of them. We of course had a helpful ruling from the High court, who in response to the Government trying to deport them, ruled that removal of homeless people from EEA countries is contrary to EU law and discriminatory

    1. Cheshire Girl
      February 5, 2019

      When I visited a relative in Belsize Park recently. I saw three people begging in a small area near the Tube Station. I couldnt help noticeing that they were all foreign.
      I gave two of them some money – yes, I know you shouldnt.

      The Government has contributed to this problem, with their blathering on about ‘diversity’. No wonder half the world wants to come and live here!

  18. Original Richard
    February 4, 2019

    It seems we’re never given any statistical information on the issue.

    Such as age, sex, ethnicity, nationality, education, marital status, previous employment (or even existing employment), length of homelessness, wish to sleep rough, drug or alcohol addiction, if family members exist, proportion of the total population, reason for homelessness etc. etc.

  19. agricola
    February 4, 2019

    As the fifth largest economy we obviously have the means. Society has the charitable will and endeavours to deal with it. Government lacks the interest kr will to deal with it. As with so many other problem areas , government prefers the elastoplast approach, be it rough sleepers, fly tippers or potholes.

  20. bigneil
    February 4, 2019

    What about the 40+ who arrived over xmas? what about the 27 who closed the M6 for four hours ? what about all the others who turn up and are instantly “homeless” ? – – are they left homeless? – NO – – all the cogs go into gear and £thousands are spent on them straight away as a reward, for committing the crime of illegal entry. As soon as they are discovered numerous ambulances are sent ( leaving others waiting ? ). Police turn up – both at a cost to us. Then these new arrivals need translators ( paid for by us ), are registered with the NHS ( ditto ), etc etc. People who were born here, bred here, even risked their lives for this country – are thrown out to live rough, while new arrivals ( polite version), with either fake ID or none at all (deliberately destroyed to avoid deportation and get a life on the taxpayer) are instantly seen to. Every single one of them costs us – and then they get the right to bring their families, which costs us even more. Many of these new arrivals have ONLY come here for a free life, free housing, free NHS etc and to commit crime while WE have to see our taxes used to keep them here.
    It must be a strange feeling to be able to constantly throw other decent people’s money away with no concern whatsoever. I couldn’t do it. Seems plenty of people who see themselves as better people, have no problem at all. Then again, the new arrivals won’t be living next door to those who throw our cash to them.
    How long till all these new houses being built are full of non-contributing, non-English speaking new arrivals? not long, because most of us won’t be able to afford to buy one, but we WILL be made to pay for the immigrants to be housed in them.

    1. a-tracy
      February 5, 2019

      I agree bigneil where is the follow up on C4 to these stories they start but never end. Where are they living, how are we processing them, how much are they costing our State, what part of the Country are they housed in, how can they house them whilst we have homeless people sleeping on the street.

      I went to Paris, their immigrants were in tents on the underpass begging as the taxi stopped on its journey from the airport. Sadly we see France getting away with leaving people in dirt and tents in Calais.

      How long do we keep people in asylum? How many escape and leak into the settled community? How many then end up homeless and are given homes to get them off the street? Why can we never ask the questions and get the answers if it isn’t a massive problem?

  21. Mactheknife
    February 4, 2019

    I can only speak for recent events in my town. Seeing a growing number of ‘homeless’ gathering in the town centre daily and creating problems with their anti social and criminal behaviour the council took action. Some surprising results….most of these people were using public transport to come into the town from other local towns and cities. Bar a couple of people, all had some form of accommodation. They were offered help but virtually all refused, preferring to stay on the streets using drink and drugs. Banning orders were issued to most preventing them from coming into the town centre.
    The question for me is that many people accuse the government of doing little, but how can they when it seems most of these people do not want help ? Obviously drugs and drink cloud their judgement, so is the only option to have some kind of forcible detainment to get treatment ?

  22. Adam
    February 4, 2019

    Consider licensing rough sleepers, who are then medically checked & wear an identifiable tabard entitling them to privileges to assist their safety & security toward sustained health & comfort.
    Consider using safe large green spaces on roundabouts to site simple 24-unit fireproof shelters with solar panelling for warmth, single bed platforms & shared washing & toilet facilities.

  23. Wessexboy
    February 4, 2019

    Once you suggest treating any illness compulsorily you run into serious difficulties. Obesity? Now an illness, apparently, but certainly leads to diabetes and even predisposes to cancer.
    Mental illnesses are not always easily determined, and the vital decision must continue to be based on the likelihood of danger to the individual or others; not at all simple to decide at times. As a society we rightly are cautious of such compulsory treatment.
    I have recently seen a suggestion that all churches should be open to rough sleepers, but who would staff them?

  24. Eh?
    February 4, 2019

    The whole problem was saturated, a surfeit no less, of synergies verging on the inexplicably complex.
    In our modern times it is choc-a-bloc in necessarily unforeseen parameters

  25. bigneil
    February 4, 2019

    Lots of Celebrities said they were going to offer spare rooms to the so-called refugees and asylum seekers. . . Anyone seen that it actually happened? . . .NO – –the rich and famous virtue signal . . .then go back to their comfortable lives and leave it to the poor to be taxed even more and to have the new arrivals stuffed next door to them.

  26. margaret
    February 4, 2019

    Can you imagine sleeping out int the ice and snow? Things must be bad to get to this point. I too have provided shelter for my family. The thing is many are in this position not through fault of their own. They do not have mental health issues, they don’t have a family , they don’t take drugs and most important they don’t have a base, an address, a place in the world where cases can springboard from. Social Services will never admit to the scale of problems and often say that is there choice.. really? Come on we believe in liberty , but what are the choices in reality ?

  27. Mike Wilson
    February 4, 2019

    It is a sad fact that some people cannot cope with … getting a job, paying tax and national insurance, having somewhere to live, paying rent, council tax, gas, electricity and phone bills, shop for food, cook for themselves, pay the BBC tax if they want to watch a television, thinking about a pension, getting quotes for insurance policies, understanding the risks they take in any financial transaction, responding to HMRC correspondence, paying water rates, maintaining/repairing your home, keeping your home clean, mowing the lawn, washing the car, affording a car etc. etc. etc. Those of us that can cope in this nutty world we have created spend an inordinate amount of our precious time alive just functioning. It surprises me that there aren’t more people unable to cope and living on the streets as a consequence.

    I have a two drawer filing cabinet full of records and paperwork. My wife is under strict instructions that, when my turn comes, the bloody filing cabinet is to go into the furnace atop my coffin.

  28. Baz Lloyd
    February 4, 2019

    We need very basic single person accommodation, similar to student halls of residences, in the form of hostels located in places where people won’t necessarily want to settle down long term, but where they can avoid homelessness and have somewhere to live till they get back on their feet.

    People cannot get on their feet unless the have somewhere to sleep, wash, do their washing and ironing, and eat.

    It would also help labour mobility and assist with some positively minded prisoners’ resettlement after they leave prison.

    There are already some YMCAs and YWCAs which do this, but there’s not nearly enough, and they tend to have age restrictions.

    Everyone is already entitled to Housing Benefits which can be paid direct to landlords, if they can’t afford the rent, so such enterprises would have reliable source of cash flow and attract investors.

    It shouldn’t be beyond the wit of the Treasury to invent a sort if of tax exempt company scheme which would allow investors (especially pension funds), to invest in companies providing accommodation like this, and getting their returns tax free, provided that rents charged were no more than slightly above Housing Benefit rates in the locality, and the accommodation meets basic quality standards.

    The only tax payable would be Capital Gains Tax, if the hostel is sold.

    Local authorities could also be required to donate unwanted land and to fast track planning consent. And even builders could be required to contribute some free work or cash to the building works as a condition of getting planning permission for their more lucrative developments.

  29. Iain Gill
    February 4, 2019

    Sounds too much like blaming the poor souls sleeping in the snow for their own fate, and far too little taking of responsibility for the circumstances the state has created which led to this.

    I understand people refuse to take up hostel places for a number of reasons, one being the number of petty fights that take place, and them not being particularly safe places to be.

    No recognition of the many anti-male aspects of the divorce laws which have many follow on problems including men sleeping rough.

    And its not just the rough sleepers, there are the families with kids being moved from B & B to B & B continually, moved from school to school, and GP to GP, etc.

    We really can do a lot better than this.

    The political elite have got to do better than this.

    Come on John, I am broadly on your side on most things, certainly more so than most politicians, you need to be a lot harsher on your peers.

    The tax & social security systems could be a lot less admin heavy, a lot cheaper to run, with much less dramatic large steps for people having problems, and help people a lot more.

    1. a-tracy
      February 5, 2019

      I agree Iain.

      Students and Londoners have to share houses why don’t the homeless get placed in smaller house shares instead of hostels with lockable bedroom doors, four to a house try to match people, with reporting facilities to ensure fellow residents are keeping communal kitchen and bathroom clean and tidy. With their housing benefit not supplied to them (many are not capable of budgeting and don’t prioritise housing rent which is why they get kicked out in the first place) but paid directly to the housing association.

      1. Iain Gill
        February 6, 2019

        Something like student halls of residence would be best, purpose designed, cheap to maintain, lockable rooms and floors.

        1. a-tracy
          February 9, 2019

          I thought that at first Iain but many of these people are reported to have mental health problems, autism, social skill issues, lack of capability to even look after themselves, too big a residential block with problem people coexisting would just ghettoise them.

          Many are reported to have drug problems, pet issues, criminal offences including sexual offences, many coexist in squats then having all their benefits to spend on bad habits, if housing benefits were paid direct to housing associations to put the roof over their heads they wouldn’t get kicked out of rentals in the first place.

  30. Andy
    February 4, 2019

    Think what a person has to have gone through to end up on the streets.

    They have been failed multiple times in multiple different ways by multiple others and multiple agencies. They have also failed themselves.

    Many have served in the forces. Many have addictions. Many have mental health problems. They need our sympathy, our support and our help.

    Tackling the problem is not rocket science. Labour comes into power, increases spending on support services and homelessness goes down.

    The Tories come in, cut those services to give tax breaks to their rich friends and homelessness goes up.

    A vote for the Tories as they are at the moment is a vote to put people on the streets. It is as simple as that. A brutal and unpleasant truth.

    I notice this car crash Brexit government can find a billion pounds to bribe the DUP dinosaurs. It can find £80m as a sweetener for Nissan. (That worked well).

    But a homeless veteran with PTSD induced mental health problems and alcohol addiction is apparently not worthy of help.

    I genuinely do not know how most of you sleep at night.

    1. a-tracy
      February 5, 2019

      Andy “Many have served in the forces. Many have addictions. Many have mental health problems.” how do you know Andy?
      Where are these figures and information gathered can you provide a link for me.

      The ‘Tories’ that represent conservative-minded voters at the end of the day, never defend these sort of accusations. I want to know why? I want to know more? I want to know how the mayor of Manchester can house so many homeless but people I know that have been on the social housing list for over six years can’t be housed?

    2. Nick
      February 5, 2019

      This is simply nonsense by a nasty individual seeking to make everything about themselves.

      It is a continual frustration that the Right have to make difficult decisions to resolve the misery the Left, in their arrogance create, then bleat about.

    3. libertarian
      February 5, 2019


      I think the main cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing

      I blame planning restrictions but mostly I blame property speculators

      You dont know any property speculators do you Andy ?

    4. libertarian
      February 5, 2019


      You do spout total guff. You’ve never done anything, achieved anything or helped anyone

      I’m a trustee of a charity that helps homeless veterans that have drink, drugs PTSD issues. They get £1400 per month as a single person in housing/rent benefit

      The problem isn’t the rent money its the lack of houses

  31. Lifelogic
    February 4, 2019

    How many drunk (or drugged up people) would perhaps have serious accidents while crossing over to these green roundabout? Multi story car parks however are usually fairly under used on winter evenings and already sheltered from wind and rain.

  32. acorn
    February 4, 2019

    I find it amusing that a laissez-faire neoliberal Conservative Party government, should be pretending to care about rough sleepers. How can the latter possibly affect a bet on the future price of a government ten year Bond!

    I and others across the continent, have been number crunching the damage that the above austerity regime, has done to both the UK and Eurozone economies. UK government current year nominal spending, will be circa £70 billion lower than required to get back to the pre-2007 trendline. Now that is what is called austerity and the “boiling frog” voters still won’t be jumping out of the ever hotter water.

    1. a-tracy
      February 5, 2019

      acorn, are you saying that it wasn’t the EU instructing George Osborne to meet their rules and put in austerity measures to balance debt and deficit targets?

      1. acorn
        February 6, 2019

        The EU didn’t have to tell Osborne, they both are on the same page in the in the Neo-liberal / global monetarist’s manual!

        The ultimate (unreachable) goal of neoliberalism is a universe where every action of every being is a free market transaction, conducted in competition with every other being and influencing every other transaction. Neoliberalism is not just economics: it is a social and moral philosophy. It morphed out of 19th century Classical Liberalism by championing economic laissez-faire policies.

        1. a-tracy
          February 9, 2019

          And breathe…

          So whatever government we had in the UK they would have been following the debt and deficit targets of the EU! They fixed what the UK could borrow or have on loan. Isn’t this the problem Italy has now, and hasn’t it been disregarded by France and Germany in the past or are our news services mis-informing us?

  33. Andy
    February 4, 2019

    I see there is something called The Malthouse Compromise aimed at bringing squabbling Tories together to get some sort of hopeless Brexit deal agreed.

    A reminder almost 60% of voters voted against the hapless Tory minority at the last election. In addition, nearly 4 million people – 3m EU citizens here and many of the 1m Britons there – have no say in the Brexit catastrophe, despite having far more to lose than most others. Young people – who have been treated with contempt by the Tories throughout – are again ignored. The Conservatives are putting their failed party ahead of their country. History will be damning.

    Few things sum up Brexit better than the picture tweeted by Suella Braverman at the weekend of a meeting in her constituency. No fear of a no deal here she proudly posted alongside a picture of dozens of her constituents with their hands up. Pretty much all them were old white men. It was like a bald patch convention. Ranting granddads consigning our country to the dustbin.

    1. a-tracy
      February 5, 2019

      Andy, Seven cultures that respect and celebrate ageing

    2. Nick
      February 5, 2019

      The article has nothing to do with Brexit. A referendum was held. Your contempt for that democratic process is irrelevant.

      That you are also bigoted, ignorant and ageist compounds the irrelevance of your post. Keep to the topic.

  34. Bob_of_Bonsall
    February 4, 2019

    I agree that a substantial part of the rough sleeping problem is down to mental problems and associated drug & alcohol abuse.
    However, this is exacerbated by the failures of Care in the Community and the closure of the old asylums which, for all the (often exaggerated) problems associated with them, did what it said on the tin, provided asylum, a place of refuge and safety.

  35. Nick
    February 5, 2019

    Many moons ago my late Father wanted to buy and build up a series of flats for homeless people – free of charge accommodation. He was continually thwarted by the local council over planning permission. After over two years of wrangling he gave up. The council then sold the land to – surprise! – a councillor, who built houses on it and made a fat profit.

    While councillors and council ‘executives’ pay themselves six figure salaries when they’ve no risk, no product, a force backed income stream and are nothing more than inefficient middle management nothing will change.

    The money wasted on these people should go into public services for those who need it. That’s the point of taxation, to help those in need not feather bedding undeserving troughers. By reducing the obscene salaries to a reasonable level – say by 85% we could save over £400,000 in my city alone. That could provide a home and support for the homeless cutting the number of rough sleepers by two thirds at a stroke.

    The problem is the greed and arrogance of the unworthy state official. The state machine needs to be brought to heel and excessive pay viciously controlled as a reminder of their real worth.

  36. Nick
    February 5, 2019

    It is big government that is the problem. The inefficiency and inability of a giant edifice to respond to the needs of citizens is the fundamental problem.

    The Left – the ‘Andy’s’ of this world just seek to add ever more government when the only rational solution is to smash the thing and make those with the funds responsible for resolving the problems they cause at a local level, under utter, absolute control of the citizen.

  37. Ian Pennell
    February 5, 2019

    Dear Sir John Redwood

    A very good, and well put- together post, Sir. The issues around homelessness are indeed complex, but as a country we are judged by how we treat the poor and vulnerable. People living on the streets are especially vulnerable, there have been a number of cases recently whereby homeless middle- aged men (in particular) have been beaten to a pulp by yobs. This happened a couple of months ago to a homeless immigrant living in Blackpool- he was unrecongnisable (see here: ).

    In an ideal world people would take homeless folk in, families would look at for them and make sure they are back on their feet. In my Christian family, we have taken in homeless people over the years, helped others who were vulnerable. We had two young vulnerable men with us over the last seven months, one of whom will soon be getting married. To the shame of the “charismatic” local church I attend however, we are the only household in our congregation of over 100 people who willingly take people into their home.

    There is, unfortunately, a good deal of (I would say) quite selfish refusal and distrust of homeless people (particularly of single men). People with children won’t have them in their homes (“They might be paedophiles!”), older people won’t have them (“They might be druggies who will steal from us.”) and others will think “They should get a job!”. As you rightly point out, Sir there is a role for the State to step in- funding for Communtiy Centres and Churches who turn their buildings into some overnight accommodation and feed these people would help.

    A great solution would be to set up Refuges (akin to those set up to help victims of domestic violence): These would provide accommodation and food for homeless people, help them with benefits and prepare these folk for work (if indeed, they can work). This will require money- and I would suggest a small Land Value Tax on very high- value property (taxes on land are the least economically damaging of taxes). The Conservatives would do well to be seen to confront some of their rich supporters with the need to help the most vulnerable people in our society- so as to help dispel the myth that “The Tories are the Party of the Rich, run by the Rich” (which is why half the population never countenance the idea of supporting the Conservative Party).

  38. Anonymous
    February 5, 2019

    No former soldier should be allowed to go homeless.

  39. rose
    February 5, 2019

    You are right to point out how complicated this problem is. But first, would people have these problems if we weren’t so overcrowded (see studies of effects on overcrowded rats) and secondly, how much easier would it be to look after them if it weren’t for the overcrowding? Overcrowding in prisons, schools, hospitals, mental hospitals, social services, care, and overcrowding in housing above all else.

  40. R.T.G.
    February 5, 2019

    Grateful for your post JR, and for many interesting and varied comments and anecdotes about this complex and eternal subject, the poor being with us always, and confirmation that there is still a general desire to help individuals or groups less fortunate in whatever way, but not necessarily knowing how or to whom to direct help.

    @Mike Wilson made a point about the (tedious) complexities of modern life, and this is where a proportion are disadvantaged simply by their upbringing, in so far as our education system provides little or no guidance to those not fortunate enough to have parents willing or able to guide them in life skills, and who are not bright enough to research for themselves.

    @ Original Richard
    “It seems we’re never given any statistical information on the issue. Such as age, sex, ethnicity, nationality, education, marital status, previous employment (or even existing employment), length of homelessness, wish to sleep rough, drug or alcohol addiction, if family members exist, proportion of the total population, reason for homelessness etc. etc.”

    If a cross party consensus could be realised, and had the political courage to guage opinion in general, rather than hiding, scared, behind the skirts of ‘political correctness’, it would be useful for those types of statistics to be widely available so that various models of carrot and stick be proposed to the general public for its assessment.

    For example, one model might propose the following in rough outline:

    “1) Safe shelter – to be legally defined in short, and time limited,mk,,, and
    2) Wholesome food – to be defined in short, and time limited, then
    3) Detox programme undertaken, any medication prescribed and taken, thenoo
    4) Trace family members and inform of situation in broad terms to seek rapprochement, then
    5) Reward any progress by grant of monthly license (accessed by ATM accessible card to print out license) in order to allow part-time casual work cash in hand, sell big issue etc.
    6) Encourage and enable access to life skills training, such as home keeping, budgeting etc.
    7) Permanent home, then
    8) Encouragement into working environment and/or ordered environment.
    9) Access to long-term mentor from retired/ semi retired sector, or others.

    In the case of those not completing 3), restart from 1).
    Repeat up to three times, and if still not coping for whatever reason or combination of reasons, ‘institutionalise’ as appropriate in a broad range of institutions – from sheltered and supervised housing through to criminal asylums or in some cases deporting to country of origin.

    Operate system mostly by guidelines to allow flexibility and to cut out unnecessary box ticking.
    Laws only to be applied to 1) and the ultimate decision to institutionalise.
    Allow anyone and anyone else not convicted of serious criminality to assist in system.
    Reward councils/authorities for success.”

    Others might prefer either less harsh or indeed harsher models, or completely different ones, but the discussion can’t take place in the absence of readily available core statistics.

    Professionals need their say, of course, but perhaps tax payers need it more.

    1. rose
      February 8, 2019

      Your “ethnicity” box appears to be irrelevant as the homeless on our streets are only from one “demographic” as they put it these days. Have you ever seen anyone from another continent sleeping rough in the streets?

      Council housing is not allocated to this native homeless group if they are single and childless, but this “low priority” rule doesn’t seem to apply to other childless groups, including those just arrived.

      1. R.T.G.
        February 8, 2019

        I delberately wrote “in some cases”, Rose, as I can only speak as I find, but you are right, in that assumed immigrants, apparently living on the street in my city, are rare.

        1. R.T.G.
          February 8, 2019

          It comes back to the problem that, without information, it is difficult to really understand the depth and origins of the problem of homelessness.

  41. J Bush
    February 5, 2019

    Good evening all

    I agree family and friends can help, I have done so when I can, but I, like I suspect many others, are limited in what we can do. The State doesn’t certainly take this into consideration, it would appear it assumes the tax payer has a money tree and extra rooms available as and when needed.

    I agree with those who have questioned the foreign aid fiasco and others who see a correlation between the causes of homelessness and ‘State approved’ illegal migration, where these people are invariably prioritized for housing etc.

    As also pointed out, there is no statistical breakdown of the nationality of the homeless. The cynic in me thinks this is probably because if the figures were released, tax paying joe public would be rather put out by the fact there are far too many native Brits eg, squaddies with PTSD are on the streets through no fault of their own, who would like a roof over their heads and/or who should have been given the support they needed, before those just turning on our shores in the back of a truck or a dinghy.

    I question why the foreign aid isn’t used in this instance? If foreign aid rules don’t allow this, well, it was politicians who created these rules and by that same token politicians can change those rules. Why should the native population be constantly pushed back in the queue for those who won’t use the legal process?

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