Politicians are often accused of living in their own bubble but even so, the suggestion by Ukip’s Portsmouth leader that homeless people should be rounded up – or ‘removed from our city’ – as he puts it, is flabbergasting.
Cllr Colin Galloway evidently believes that sleeping in the open is a lifestyle choice, one that some people plump for because they fancy a spot of begging rather than living in a house. He’s entitled to his opinion, of course, but he must be aware that most right-thinking people will see it as offensive rubbish.
Homelessness is a complex issue. It can involve problems with being able to afford housing, but equally it can be cause by a person falling out with their family and having nowhere to turn. Yes, it can be fuelled by alcohol or drug problems, but plenty of people who have undergone trauma can find themselves homeless because they cannot cope with life any more. How else do you explain the incidence of homelessness among veterans? If it was simply a matter of telling someone to pull their socks up to get off the streets, might not a man with several years experience of the army be able to do so? The recent,worrying, rise in homeless numbers is not down to a lack of backbone.
Most people who work with the homeless will report that you need to help people regain their self-respect, to treat them like humans – not, Cllr Galloway, label them ‘detritus’ – and then give them practical help to get on their feet again. It can be done.
What is not helpful is marking out everyone unfortunate enough to find themselves on the streets as people who need to be cleared up.
And by suggesting that Portsmouth as a city ‘chooses’ to have the homeless, Cllr Galloway confuses cause and effect to spectacular degree.
He may well also claim that we need to ‘save these lost souls’, but rounding people up ‘whether they like it or not’ is not the way forward.
We hope this motion is bitterly laughed out of the council, and that Cllr Galloway takes some time out to think about he has suggested, and why it is wrong.