"AAAAAAHHHHH!" reasoned the man at the corner of Lower Rd

He’s got in it for me, definitely. There’s a bum at the corner of the local High St, one of two aggressive ones ‘living locally’ that probably regard Lewisham Nick as their primary residence, and once again, heading into town, I got the single yelled torrent of hate, ‘AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!’ He’s really LOUD.

It costs £50K a year to run the services that keep each homeless guy in London alive, and all that £50K does is manage the problem; it doesn’t provide the solution. That guy might be screwed up with hate, violent and troublesome and a menace to society, but he’s also (probably) mentally ill and racked by addictions. And with up to eleven goverment agencies dealing with him – none of them communicating with each other – he’s on the streets, effectively, for good.

I support the radical solution recently proposed. Instead of £50K, every year, to keep them in misery, forever, spend that same £50K in three months… to give each rough sleeper actual treatment, a residential course that gives them an address, medical help, and a chance to get their shit together. Such courses have a success rate of two-thirds. What gives it weight is that this solution was proposed not by Whitehall, but by the founder of The Big Issue – a former rough sleeper himself. The most important part of it – don’t give them any choice.

My ‘Aaaaaah!” man is probably beyond help. But there are plenty of people on London’s streets who don’t deserve to be there: ex-armed forces people unable to adjust to civilian life (over a third), people brought up in the bedlam of Britain’s overpoliticised child protection services (another third) and those who’ve simply fallen throught the cracks and desperately want to climb up, but can’t find the footholds.

It’s a bit like thinking about the jail population. Yes they’re nearly all guilty, but there’s got to be something in the way 80% of male prisoners have a reading age below 11…

These are uncomfortable thoughts for a social darwinist like me, but necessary. Give ’em the care they need – but make it Tough Love.

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