Thanks Jack. For the avoidance of doubt, I’m not saying that all rough sleepers lack the mental capacity to make an informed choice to exit the streets. There are a number of perverse incentives that keep people on the streets. In fact my esteemed critic -Christopher Webb refers to ‘a camaraderie’ amongst some and that is certainly something I would recognise, although would not encourage (for the record, I’m not clear if your argument is in support of against enforcement – which is of course another discussion, but I’d be interested to hear)
I’m struggling with your assertion that all local authorities are seeking ways to discharge their responsibilities towards supporting rough sleepers in the way you describe. You use the example of reduced SP funding over the last 8 years to illustrate your point, while failing to acknowledge that there has been a significant reduction in the numbers of rough sleepers in tandem with this reduction. Of course I would argue for more resources to tackle this issue, as would any of my contemporaries in other charities and associations also fighting a worthy cause.
I also don’t agree with your suggestion that ‘local connection’ is routinely being exploited by LA’s to ignore the plight of those on their streets. The implication here that, “victims of domestic violence don’t need a local connection then why should rough sleepers?” is simply misleading. In most instances of DV cases that I’m aware of, the original borough retains responsibility for assessing cases, as well as negotiating resources and resettlement in neighboring host boroughs, through ‘spot purchasing’ arrangements. If funding isn’t directly provided to host boroughs in this arrangement, there is often a reciprocal agreement to share resources to accommodate victims of DV.
Given that this is not the arrangement for rough sleepers (of which approximately one third of those currently on the streets are bedded down in WCC), then I would reasonably suggest that some host authorities should gate-keep services more tightly. I am not implying here that this should be to the detriment of the most vulnerable; but for those newly arriving onto the streets of London from elsewhere, it is reasonable and practical to suggest that in most cases they should return to where they have the most social capital. To bring this back into context, it is in these instances that generous but misguided handouts detract from the efforts of those authorities faced with large populations of rough sleepers to address the problem.
I note that you haven’t supported your Brezhnev comparison with East –London with any empirical evidence. One can only surmise you are referring to the collective efforts of homeless agencies and LA’s to end rough sleeping by 2012? Far from the negative connotations your analogy suggests, I would argue that there is a great deal of positive and innovative work towards achieving this noble target. This includes open-ended offers of accommodation and support, including tenure -neutral provision with financial assistance, as well as individual budgets and personalised services.
You conclude that local authorities are willingly ignoring the plight of rough sleepers at the behest of their political masters and that providers are colluding in, ‘looking the other way’, to ensure they retain their funding. I find this at best patronising and at worst – naive. If this was the case, I’m sure we’d all pack it in and go home.
PSR – I have reflected and apologise if offended. I base my assumptions on the number of posts of yours which I have read over time, all of which - in my opinion - contain a common thread of anti-establishment, regardless of the issue in hand. I’m not able to agree that the solution to all things concerned lies in your stubborn ‘left of centre’ ideology (but happy to debate). Hope no offence caused. Chris – my suggestion is not that all concerned, starve on the street while wider issues are being worked out, quite to the contrary – I think support should be focused to incentivise those most in need into structured support that is currently on offer to provide sustainable solutions and exits from the streets. For the record the plight of our homeless heroes and their reduced presence within the rough sleeping population (3% according to the last annual CHAIN report), is as consequence of more joint up work between the Royal Legion and similar organisation working closer with the homeless sector. I don’t believe that ex-service men and women would suggest that free soup and other similar voluntary is attributable to this success