Taking a stroll through the affluent city of York encapsulates the heritage and success it has enjoyed throughout. However if you are to look that little bit closer, maybe down the alleys that hide in the cracks of the shambles, or opposite Betty’s famous Tea Rooms, a dark and upsetting side of the city is unveiled. The presence of the homeless are all too prevalent and the same can be seen up and down the country. These men and women stay on the snow-laden streets well after the shops have closed; they live in fear of violence, rape and starvation to name a few and this is summed up by the figure that the average life expectancy of a rough sleeper is the same as a person from the war torn country of Somalia.
The majority of homeless people do have a problem with drink, drugs or are battling with mental health issues that make them even more isolated. There’s no doubt that the desperation for money to satisfy a heavy addiction or even just enough to feed themselves breeds the opportunistic violent side, that I’m sure is embedded in human nature. This may explain the strange, disturbing position the public find themselves in of ignoring those in dire need of help, brazenly walking past the desolate homeless who are shaking with cold.
Why is it that homelessness in the UK is not a massive political issue, the government appear to see these helpless people as more of a nuisance, rather than a problem to tackle and resolve. This current structure makes it far too easy for people to fall through the net of society and become completely isolated and destitute. Surely the net to catch people should be fine enough to stop people having no alternative but to sleep on the streets, particularly here in the UK, one of the wealthiest nations in the world and famed for its’ welfare state.
The Carecent centre in York has been running for twenty-seven years and offers a breakfast to anyone who needs it, six mornings a week. But this centre and the others like it such as Arc Light and The Salvation Army are only kept alive by donations. It isn’t just about providing the basic necessities such as food and shelter, but actually to provide a facility to get these people back on their own two feet, to support themselves but to also rectify any existing psychiatric problems which may be undiscovered. The Homelessness transition fund is a government founded body that gives grants to successful schemes aimed at helping the rough sleepers in the UK, although it has only given away £200 million in the whole of the country so far.
Great Britain gives away 0.7% of its GNI in foreign aid that equated to just over £8 billion in 2012, this may be seen as necessary, but also provokes a lot of confrontation particularly around the question about how much of that aid actually gets to the needy. This is however a discussion for another day. The question to raise is how can the UK government spend this amount of money on the poverty stricken in other countries, yet seem to overlook those within its own borders who are under the same plight. The priorities of our government must be then, be questioned. Looking after its citizens ought to be first and foremost yet this appears not to be the case, as the homeless again are forgotten about.
The reason a person becomes homeless is varied, from running away from an abusive family, a downward spiral of depression, losing a job or an unassailable addiction to drugs; with the stemming of the addition deep rooted in their history or simply a misinformed bad decision. The unfortunate truth is that circumstances can catch up with you. Criminals are better looked after and have more support than these, so the homeless are the forgotten few who are the invisible visible, accepted as a norm in every modern city but not helped. More needs to be done.