Is enough being done to help Southampton’s homeless?

The number of homeless in the city is rising

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Last week, at a two-day secret meeting in the Central Baptist Church, the issue of homelessness in Southampton was debated.

The summit, hosted by Love Southampton, was attended by MPs, councillors, church ministers, police chiefs and business and charity heads. The outcome is supposedly a new city-wide plan to tackle the problem.

Paul Woodman, a local priest and the main host of the event, said "We learnt that Southampton is experiencing a rise in rough sleepers and delegates heard recent survey results of those who are rough sleeping and begging on the streets."

Those figures, released by the Department for Communities and Local Government and reported by the Daily Echo, highlight that the number of homeless people and rough sleepers in Southampton is on the rise. This meeting was very necessary – that is if it will be taken seriously.

Independent Don Thomas recently told the Daily Echo: “Homelessness in Southampton is the scourge of our times.

“It seems that apart from a couple of very good but overstretched homelessness charities no one wants to take any responsibility in trying to end this misery for so many Southampton families, and individuals young and old."

It was also reported that the government's planned benefit and welfare cuts will reduce the resources of some of Southampton's vital homeless organisations such as The Society of St James.

The anti-homeless mindset that the government has adopted is toxic. We even see local councils trying to make it even worse for those on the streets. Earlier this week Professor Green condemned the new benches in Bournemouth which prevent anyone from sleeping on them. This might be a local initiative but it is more likely that central government has pushed out these measures.

What these abhorrent designs then cause is the demonisation of homeless people and the oversimplification of the issue as a whole.

The factors that lead to homelessness are so much more complicated than people initially think. Some people blindly assume it is drug-addiction and therefore the person's own fault, but it could be the result of a personal crisis, an injury, severe mental health issues, lack of affordable housing. It is a mix of things that are both controllable and beyond control.

It doesn't make sense to not want to help a homeless person. Aside from basic human morality, it would benefit everyone if more people are working, contributing and enjoying life like the rest of us.

Lastly, how often do you see homeless people on streets when you're on a night out? I would be surprised if it isn't most nights. Maybe every night. Let's not waste this new found urgency surrounding the issue of homelessness in Southampton.

Food for thought.