So what are we going to do about it?


There’s a campaign in Barrow, we had two ‘rough sleepers’ die overnight and people felt that enough was enough. Given our facilities, we’ve got to the stage that if the council decide you’re not a priority they’ll give you a tent to sleep in. Funnily enough people are still moaning that the council hasn’t spent a fortune on Christmas lights this year.
We have a problem, what are we going to do about it? Well there’s no point in saying ‘they’ should do something. We’ve had the issue for a lot of years and seen all three major parties in power and we’ve still got the issue. Any solution they put forward might increase taxes but it would inevitably create jobs in the public sector and ten years down the line the problem would still be here.

So as far as I can see, if the problem is to be fixed, it’ll have to be fixed by the people of Barrow. As a friend of mine said, “We’re a damned long way from Carlisle, so they won’t be interested.” We’re a damned long way from Westminster as well, and even if they’re interested, they’ve got a lot of other troubles to deal with.


I suppose the problem is that the homeless are unfashionable. Often dirty and unwashed (hardly a surprise, tricky getting the laundry done when you’re homeless), often suffering from mental illness, they’re never going to come into the cute and huggable category. The difficulty is that homelessness is a dangerously easy condition to get into. Marital breakdown or mental illness can be a fast track on the way to homelessness. The two can even be combined; mental illness can make somebody impossible to live with.

One bitter fact is that it may well be easier to get somebody a home than get their mental illness treated. So perhaps that’s something else that needs looking at? But again, mental illness lacks the kudos of attempting to cure cancer, and again, lacks the cute and cuddly side when it comes to the various specialists shroud waving and trying to attract funding to their area.


So what are we going to do? Well St Mark’s Church has started their ‘Buried in Barrow’ Campaign.


The hope is that next winter we’ll have a night shelter any homeless person can go to, seven nights a week, at least through winter.


This strikes me as a good a place to start as any.

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13 thoughts on “So what are we going to do about it?

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt December 5, 2016 at 3:40 pm Reply

    I hope you mean this winter which is about to start.

    Once people are dead, we get all teary-eyed and send them off with trumpets and schoolchildren with flowers and a proper burial – they’re an easy problem to tidy away.

    Mental healthcare is a joke. We, middle-class parents, couldn’t get our health insurance to find us a doctor who would do a decent job with our child. Even paying for it, there aren’t enough professionals, and the private practice ones are expensive given what they do, which takes years. And many misdiagnoses. The money gets paid, the problem is NOT solved.

    Professional medicine fails another time.

    • jwebster2 December 5, 2016 at 4:27 pm Reply

      This winter one charity in town is opening a center for four men and four women, Friday to Sunday (this from memory). It was the two deaths that occurred earlier this autumn that galvanised St Mark’s into action. The problem is finding premises, getting them set up properly and also getting people trained up.
      I think our medicare is in a better state than the US, but mental health has been the Cinderella service and it’s about time she got invited to the Ball

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt December 5, 2016 at 5:01 pm

        I think mental health has a long way to go for all of us.

        I manage my own depression episodes with CBT – because I can, and because I don’t tolerate anti-depressants.

        My experience with the sleep disorder in one of my children has emphasized that you need to look deeper – the cause of symptoms can be an undiagnosed and possibly treatable actual physical problem. I can’t tell you how many doctors and mental health ‘professional’ this poor kid has gone through – and the sleep disorder is being manage with a simple beta blocker (turns off melatonin production as a side effect) followed by a small amount of melatonin administered to get it going again a few hours before bedtime.

        The description of the difference that applies is ‘night and day.’ And a sleep disorder is NOT a mental health problem.

        Some of the people with intractable homelessness and apparent mental problems need real medical help; others may need to get a series of bad luck blows taken care of and reversed – poverty, joblessness (you try showing up for work when you can’t clean your clothes), divorce, domestic abuse, etc., etc., etc. There but for the grace of God is far more common than we admit.

        I’m glad your church is doing something. Ours does, too.

  2. Mick Canning December 6, 2016 at 2:43 pm Reply

    One of my favourite quotations is ‘judge a society by how it treats its vulnerable members’. Our society still has some way to go in that respect, unfortunately, although it is certainly true that other members of society, rather than the government, are often the ones that step in to help.

    • jwebster2 December 6, 2016 at 5:32 pm Reply

      Far too often government is merely part of the problem rather than part of the solution 😦

  3. Kate McClelland December 6, 2016 at 11:53 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Kate McClelland.

  4. davidprosser December 7, 2016 at 2:22 am Reply

    Walk in hostels are a good idea in all areas these days. If premises could be found, and there are many empty properties, and willing volunteers trained, then they could be run quite cheaply. With donations of food going to be scrapped from Supermarkets and cafes then providing a hot meal and a bed could be easy.
    Many councils won’t look to providing empty buildings for this as they feel it might encourage the homeless to move to their area. Personally if it’s possible to provide enough beds I don’t see this as a problem, but if more councils made the effort the homeless wouldn’t need to move.

    • jwebster2 December 7, 2016 at 7:34 am Reply

      As a town we had the problem that other councils shipped their homeless to us because it was far cheaper to buy housing here for them.
      We have a homeless centre and food bank which both do good work, but the big problem now is finding people who can volunteer on a regular basis. Those people who are willing to volunteer are already overloaded.

      • davidprosser December 7, 2016 at 9:06 am

        That’ a real problem. Perhaps some big firms locally might be interested in sponsoring the project by allowing say two staff to volunteer with you perhaps two days a week. It may be different staff all the time but would at least be regular bodies.

      • jwebster2 December 7, 2016 at 11:45 am

        That’s where the system gets in the way. Pay people then they’re employees and employment law comes into play with pensions, contracts of employment and suchlike.
        Just use volunteers and even if you can get them, you’ve still got to do all the Disclosure and Barring Service ( DBS ) checks. 😦

      • jwebster2 December 7, 2016 at 11:47 am

        Not wanting to appear unduly negative, there is a way through all this stuff, but it’ll take time, a lot of planning and probably far more money than just helping people would

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