We still have a long way to go in dealing with the homeless

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Some people can tend to have a fixed view of students – and it might not be a particularly charitable one.

Perhaps they’ve been on the end of youthful high jinks, or had to endure the racket from late-night parties.

But you shouldn’t generalise – and Luke Buckland is the reason why.

This 21-year-old University of Portsmouth politics student has taken it upon himself to lead a new campaign to support the city’s homeless.

Seeing men and women living on the streets has prompted him to try to give them a stronger voice. He’s been talking to rough sleepers to get an idea of the difficulties they face and how they can be provided with better support to break out of the grip of homelessness.

Yes, there are charities that seek to represent the homeless. But if people on the streets are isolated and not engaging with such bodies, then nobody is truly speaking on their behalf.

That’s why Luke’s work is so important.

By getting out there and building relationships with homeless people, he is well-placed to explain the issues.

What he’s found is concerning. He says homeless shelters that offer beds are giving priority to those with addictions. Meanwhile those with no drink or drug issues or mental health problems lose out.

That seems very unfair. So does going to a shelter and being told you have to wait for two weeks to go before a panel which decides whether you should have access to accommodation.

We’re pleased to see independent councillor Paul Godier has been appointed to a panel leading the city council’s effort to support the homeless. His own experiences of life on the streets as a teenager make him well-qualified.

But Luke’s research has uncovered an uncomfortable truth.

As a city, we still have a long way to go in our handling of homelessness.