As nights get colder, and days continue to get shorter, it’s even more necessary to have a roof over one’s head.
But sadly, for many people, that won’t be the case this Christmas. The figures show that more and more people are on the streets – in Portsmouth, for example, the number has more than doubled in the past year.
As spending by the state at all levels – from government to local council – continues to drop, so the pressure grows on the most vulnerable. Benefits cuts and sanctions may well be intended to lead people to employment but they have made life harder for many and in some cases have pushed them over the edge.
It’s a worry to a lot of people, and that is why The News has started the Show Them You Care This Christmas campaign. It has been launched by Fr Bob White from St Mary’s Church in Fratton, and by Carole Damper, the chief executive of the Roberts Centre in Landport. Both have experience of dealing with the homeless, and both are known for choosing their words wisely. Crucially, both want to join our bid to show some compassion to people on the streets this Christmas.
There many reasons why someone may become homeless, probably as many reasons as there are homeless people. But what we do know is that rates of mental health problems are higher among the homeless than among the general population, as are drug and alcohol issues. Although the data is conflicting, one study found that one in 10 rough sleepers was a military veteran, while another estimated that six per cent of the homeless had a military background. Whichever the truth, it’s a problem.
What we are asking this Christmas is that people do not judge rough sleepers – as Portsmouth councillor Steve Wemyss says, we should see homelessness and not the homeless as a problem. There are steps we can take to help, as the shopping list we print today proves. Donating warm clothes will not solve the problem of homelessness – but it will improve the lot of somebody who needs help. And that, surely, is a start.