Where homeless deaths are concerned we have blood on our hands.

Standard

Back in October 2018 I wrote this article, so I am not surprised one bit that another homeless person has died on our streets. Unless the government and the council act there are going to be more, this isn’t something unforeseen which is happening. We knew this was coming, we know there has been hundreds of homeless deaths on the streets of this country. Sadly there are going to be many, many, more.

Last week a homeless man was found dead on the streets of Corby, his name was John Holland. Unless we want this to become the new norm, it is imperative that the council act to avert any more homeless deaths this winter.

The Dying Homeless campaign recorded a minimum of 449 homeless deaths in the past year, with seven of those deaths being attributed to our county.

Unless the county and the government start taking immediate steps this figure is likely to increase, in the last year alone 43,140 families were accepted as homeless by their local authority. Rough sleeping has risen year on year for the past seven years, with homelessness charities claiming it has risen a whopping 169% since 2010!

The government put forward the Homeless Reduction Act 2018, which came into force in April – yet this clearly falls short, as the problem shows no signs of abating.

Northampton and the 20 or so local authorities in similar financial dire straits are clearly going to have problems with the financial commitments, yet the current approach is costing us millions already.

Wellingborough spent £1m on temporary accommodation last year, while councils in England spent a combined total of £937m.

There are huge sums of money being spent on putting a plaster on the problem, because our approach to helping the homeless is itself problematic.

It is time we went back to the drawing board and moved back to the basics, because unless there is a cultural shift in how we are helping the homeless, then it looks like huge sums of money are going to be wasted and people are going to continue to die.

There needs to be a more holistic approach to helping the homeless, purpose run and built accommodation that provides much more than shelter from the elements. Homeless people have a very complex set of needs which require specialist long term support. Unless we are working to address the underlying causes of homelessness, then no amount of temporary accommodation will solve the problem.

There are also barriers to seeking out help which can prevent the people in need getting what little help that is available. For example if a homeless person has a drug or alcohol problem they could be shut out from getting help, and mental health problems mean a homeless person may not be capable of seeking help at all.

In Northampton the task has fallen largely to the voluntary sector, yet these organisations can only do so much with the limited resources available to them.

We know these people are vulnerable, we know they are at risk, and if the authorities do not act to help them, we know some of them will die. Make no mistake the inaction of our authorities to protect and help the most vulnerable will mean they have blood on their hands.

It is time we start treating homeless people with dignity and respect, not judging them. Nobody should be living on the streets, and we should be doing everything we can to help those vulnerable members of our society who are

Advertisements

Northampton’s Road To Nowhere

Standard

Take a walk through my town
Down the dark and dirty paths
We got no money for street lights
There are no wages for street cleaners
Peer from the lofty lift tower heights
Drink in the run down derelict sights
Hear the dereliction of council duty
Drunk on their neoliberal counsel booty
We have been cut raw to the bone
Dying homeless on the streets alone
Where is the council’s ghost at the feast
Playing host to our very own beast
Draining the lifeblood of our town
We have even been abandoned by the clown
Society now secondary to loan repayments
Who gives a fuck about benefit claimants?
Tear the bus stop down one won’t be soon
Expect one along once in a blue moon
Repeat to me we are all in this together
While I freeze to death in the cold weather
These fair weather friends provide no service
Do they forget they are suppose to serve us!

Fight the County Council cuts, but pick our battles; save our libraries

Standard

Another round of cuts has been announced by the council, and another attack on our public services is being rolled out – well enough is enough, let us throw a spanner in their works and save our libraries.

We won’t be able to stop all the cuts at once, the only way to do that would be a change of administration in Parliament, and in local government – even then it would take weeks, months or even years for the budget and the policy to trickle down, arguably you wouldn’t start feeling the effects until the next financial year (by then it could be too late).

We need to be against all the cuts, but if we fight to stop all cuts we run the risk of stopping none. We have to pick and choose our battles, and we have to fight the battles we stand a chance of winning. Otherwise we are setting ourselves up for failure and the more long term negative effect of demoralisation. If we win small battles, if we win some battles and reverse some cuts, it weakens the position of cuts, and it strengthens our own hand, it makes us feel empowered, and when we are empowered, we are strong.

Chip away at the cuts, slowly but surely undermine the position through a series of smaller victories. The cuts to libraries is a battle we could win, it has been won before, and it can be won again. Why? Because it effects so many different people, it brings together a community, and they can galvanise around it, it is tangible – it is in your face. It should be the focus, the vanguard in our war against the local cuts.

We have to put forward the position that we are opposed to the cuts in principal, but if we spread ourselves too thin, the message is more diluted, and it is harder to get a tangible victory. Focus all our energies and resources on a single campaign, like libraries, campaign around stopping the closure of the libraries, while having the general anti-cut message in the background and at least then we stand the chance of claiming a victory.  Even if the only victory we end up claiming is stopping the closure of the libraries, we will have made a difference to a community. There are other positives as this helps create the campaigning infrastructure for future battles, the community links that are needed in any campaign, provides valuable experience and helps empower people.

So how do we move that forward?

1. A county wide response
Unity is strength, if the library campaigns are isolated they are easier to defeat – their needs to be a county wide response, a coordinated effort. Local groups need to be linked up and supporting one another in the communities battle to save their library

2. Raise awareness
People can’t get angry about something they don’t know about, we need to use all the available methods to raise awareness, social media campaigns, stickers, posters and petitions. Every possible way to raise awareness has to be explored, and the more innovative the better.

3. Protests
We love us a good protest and as part of a wider anti-cuts strategy it can play a pivotal part of showing our strength, and the opposition towards the closure. These can be at council meetings, and outside our libraries, and of course a speaker or two would be great.

4. Direct action
If we are going to draw a line in the sand and so no closures, we have to do more than a two hour protest, and we have to do more than a petition. We have to make it politically impossible for them to close the libraries, these means getting wider community support, but it also means making it as difficult as possible for them. Direct action has to be the way forward, occupy our libraries, carry out read ins, make it colourful, make it fun, make it innovative but most of all make it engaging so that more people get involved in the campaign.

5. Local support, local led
These campaigns have to be led from within the community or they will fail, every community has unsung heroes, and leaders waiting in them. If these campaigns are not coming from within the community, they won’t succeed, identify local leaders, and have as many local people not just involved in the campaign, but running the campaign as possible.

Get angry, get involved, get organised – save our libraries!

Should the homeless pay? Open letter to the Hope Centre.

Standard

On the 24th of July the CEO of the Hope Centre wrote on his blog an article entitled: “Why Hope charges for items like food and clothes.” In this article the CEO seeks to justify charging for these items, as well as selling donations on eBay and furthermore attacks organisations that give away things for free. You can find the full blog here: http://www.northamptonhopecentre.org.uk/sites/default/files/717%20CEO%20Blog.pdf

To sum up their strategy and their justification, they seek to impoverish the homeless in order to stop them buying drugs. Their reasoning is if they are spending money in the Hope Centre, they are not spending it on alcohol or drugs. That is clearly a win for the Hope Centre, after all they get to keep their users dependant on them while also being provided with a steady stream of income.

Is that an effective strategy to tackle drug and alcohol dependency among the homeless? Anyone who understands the nature of addiction would know that it comes first, food comes second. Going hungry to feed your addiction is always an option and If you have used all your money that you would spend on drugs or alcohol, what then? Well you do whatever it takes to get more, beg, steal, borrow and if you’re a woman that likely means prostitution.

Thus it doesn’t make much sense when they say they don’t want to ‘collude’ with drug and alcohol users, because if anything you are making the situation more hopeless for these people. Forcing them to do unsavoury things to maintain these addictions, while putting the blame on to them. It implies homelessness and their addiction is of their own choosing. If only they were a little bit better at handling their money they wouldn’t be homeless or addicts – this is the wrong mindset any organisation should adopt that seeks to engage and help the homeless.

Money is not a cause of addiction, that being the case taking it away from them isn’t going to solve the problem. Yes you may make it a tiny bit harder for them to get drink or drugs, and of course you would make them suffer more, or force them to take more drastic measures in order to access drink and drugs. But at the end of the day, unless they get the support they need, they are still going to be addicts.

For your reference here is a list of common reasons for substance abuse

  • Peer pressure
  • Boredom
  • As a way to deal with stress
  • Growing up in a home where alcohol and drug abuse is considered normal
  • behaviour
  • Self-medication to deal with mental illness
  • Relationship problems
  • Financial worries
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Those with low self-esteem may abuse substances in order to boost confidence
  • Substance abuse as part of a personality disorder
  • Teenage rebellion
  • To promote relaxation
  • To forget a normal life

You will notice that financial worries is one, so that being the case how does increasing the financial burden on your users, solve drug and alcohol addiction? If you are interested in understanding the causes of addiction, then please check out: http://alcoholrehab.com/drug-addiction/reasons-for-substance-abuse/

They also believe that charging for their service gives their users a level of responsibility – but clearly they are not responsible enough to have money. This point is contradictory, you say you want to give responsibility to these people, while at the same time saying they are not responsible enough to be trusted.

This of course generalises the homeless, while it is true that there are drug and alcohol problems within these communities, it doesn’t apply to all. With one of the primary factors for the abuse being the environment they find themselves in, that being the case I would like to know what body of evidence you are using in order to support this strategy.

You round off your argument by presenting an economic case for charging for your service, yet out of your 90k profits last year, you only made 7k from the canteen. Clearly you are not treading water to the point that providing these services for free would have a major impact on your operation.

Let’s look at the way you use donations – you like to sell them on Ebay in order to maximise profit, that is a very sound business approach but there are a few ethical concerns here. Are the people donating these items in good faith doing so on the understanding they are going to your users, and not on eBay? If so, then you are taking these things under false pretences. You sell off all the best stock, so why can’t a homeless person wear Prada or Gucci? You imply that homeless people shouldn’t be allowed to wear nice things.

That is a strange approach when you talk about giving them responsibility, having respect for yourself, having the opportunity to wear nice clothes – these things can make peoples day. If you don’t think they’re good enough to wear nice clothes, why should they think they are worth anything?

Finally you suggest that they can be choosy with their food, that they’re throwing their food away because they can go around the food banks. It’s a very shocking accusation, hunger is a very real problem for those on the street, and having access to basic food stuffs is a struggle. Yet the way you frame it, they are living the high life on free food. I’ve never witnessed a homeless banquet, and if like you say they are just throwing away the food they don’t like, wouldn’t they trade it, or sell it on? It’s nonsensical, and I’m sceptical of the proof that you have, outside of anecdotal evidence.

Is the strategy for change a positive one?

Having dealt with the fact money is not a primary motivator for drug and alcohol abuse, let’s examine the wider strategy. Firstly, I think it is extremely crass of you to use the recent tragic death of one of your users in to this argument, it is impossible to know if it was a cause and you use it to get emotive support.

So putting that to one side, let’s look at the issue here – is it wrong to give free things to the homeless community? I can turn this on its head and say is it right to financially benefit off the homeless community, because that is what charging them is doing – exploiting them. They have no where else to turn, they have very little and they are dependant on these services for help. Is taking their benefits, or their begging money away from them then going to help them get into a home, get off the streets and get the help they need? Unlikely, but it will continue to perpetuate a cycle of homelessness by keeping these people operating below the breadline.

If you are about change like you say you are I suggest you do something radical and innovative, instead of taking us back decades if not centuries on how we view and tackle the problems of homelessness and addiction.

For example

  • For the homelessness to have elected representation on the Hope Centre Board
  • For the service users of the Hope Centre to have a greater say in how the organisation operates, and greater control over the running of the centre
  • Draw up an inclusive strategy with the aid of the people you are seeking to help
  • Use a multi-agency response, instead of seeking to attack other organisations seeking to help the homeless – work in partnership with them.

I urge you to change the course of your organisation, I urge you to think about the language you are using, and the attitude you are adopting. Wouldn’t a better way to tackle homelessness be providing a supportive environment that helps tackle the underlying problems of these addictions? One that doesn’t judge these people for their problems, but seeks to engage with them and support them. With homelessness increasing in the town there is clearly a flaw in your strategy, so next time think, because there is another way.

Signed
Stephen Miller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hail Simmonds!

Standard

Simmonds thinks he’s Caesar
he reminds me of Caligula
Fiddle as Northampton burns!

He’s a school builder
not a crime fighter
Simmonds school
he played us for fools

Blood stained legacy
long after he’s history
the truth will be a mystery
Corruption in Northampton
is a state of normality

Police force on all fours
you tell me the cause
Who needs officers
we have an academy!
Money making offers
enriching Tory coffers

Crime is on the rise
so lets go roundabout
Its time for your goodbyes!
Enough with the sell off
the great pcc rip off
Its time now mr.pcc
why don’t you f off

Clean For The Queen – A Slap In The Face For The People Of Northampton

Standard

Clean for the Queen – a slap in the face to the people of Northampton.

Clean for the Queen is a national initiative to get the downtrodden and desperate people of this country cleaning their own communities, after all our councils have been that drastically butchered by central government to the point that they’re no longer willing to.

In their own words director of the Clean for The Queen campaign Adrian Evans puts it; “We hope a million people will join us in a mass litter pick to give our beautiful country the facelift it deserves.” I don’t know about you, but surely its my governments job to make this country beautiful? Why not provide jobs to litter pickers? Instead of getting unpaid volunteers to do it? Why not give this country a facelift anyway? Why are we having to do it?

It gets worse as Adrian states; “Our ambition is to create a community inspired, grass-roots mass action event – one that will become a recurring annual clean up.” Not only is this not and never has been community inspired, but we should be looking at why we need an annual clean up? Is this to become the norm? The peasants turning out to clean for her maj?

I have no problem with people being empowered over their communities, I have no problem with communities coming together to achieve, I do however have a problem of normal people being forced to do something the council exist to do, and to carry out something that at one time in our not so distant past, people were employed to do.

People should take pride in their communities, and be encouraged to do so, for their neighbours sake, for their own sake, people should take pride in their surroundings because its part of their community. If there is any initiatives like this it should be for themselves, not some super rich woman that lives in multiple palaces, who lets face it has probably never held a brush, let alone used a litter bin.

Here in lies the insult not only to us but also to the many communities up and down this country feeling the harsh effects of corporate highwaymen, and political butchers, in the form of their enforced austerity measures.

What really adds salt to the wounds is the council cuts that are happening in this town, perhaps some of the biggest in the whole country, as our county council simply ceases to exist in any meaningful level.

Within a backdrop where many people in this country cannot afford to eat, it is beyond insulting. Far from what presents the Queen receives on her 90th birthday, my heart goes out to the many families up and down this country which are struggling to heat their homes, to feed their children. I’m more concerned with the homeless person you pass on the street, or the many children that won’t be getting any presents on their birthdays.

Living somewhere that is clean, is of course important but what about the many human casualties in this failed austerity gamble? Surely what is more important is that every person in this country is living in a home? That everyone is fed, clothed, warm, that those that are disabled are receiving adequate care? That our NHS is being torn to pieces by privatisation jackals foaming at the mouth of the prospect of getting their teeth into our health service?

I’m a republican, I don’t believe we need a state backed monarchy in the 21st century, but wouldn’t it of been much better for the Queen on her 90th birthday celebration, to I don’t know? Help the many poor and needy people in this country that are suffering under a brutal ideologically driven mob of a government, whose only concern seems to be how they can line their pockets of their rich chums.