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.