In my part of the world a charity bought and converted a double decker bus into a shelter for the homeless that allows nineteen people to sleep in warmth and safety every night. Bus companies must replace buses on a regular basis, there would be great kudos for them if instead of scrapping their unwanted buses they were donated for similar use up and down the country. For a little labour and a couple of thousand pounds these buses, though not solving the homelessness crisis, would go a long way to bringing it under control.
And it need not only be buses that could be converted in this way. On ‘Grand Designs’ type programmes I have seen shipping containers converting into offices, out-houses and even homes. I believe in the ‘jungle’ of Calais shipping containers were used to house refugees. This is, of course, a quick-fix temporary solution to a much bigger social crisis but it must be many times better than having human beings sleeping in shop doorways in the depths of winter or even during the height of summer.
If such a scheme were to be adopted by Government, and this should be a Westminster led initiative and not left to cash-strapped city councils, the cost to put a brake on this runaway problem might only be a hundred-thousand per city, and less for the towns of this country.
By instigating ‘homelessness parks’, for want of a better term, the vulnerable people who currently litter our high streets can be housed in a ‘community of likemindedness’, their problems and addictions addressed and be set upon the first steps to regaining a normal and useful life. Soup kitchens and Christmas Day meals are all well and good but a full stomach is no substitute for a warm dry bed and safety from drunks and the dregs of society.
It is disgraceful that government after government have done nothing but dispense empty words on this subject. Personally I believe there is no will, and never has been, even when governed by the socialist party, amongst politicians to make good this problem as in every society there must be, it seems, down-and-outs, ragged people who we can throw pennies to so to make ourselves feel more worthy. This problem is easily solved. It does not need vast housing projects or a legions of outreach workers. It just needs a government department cooperating with homelessness charities and spending the comparatively small amount of money it would cost converting buses, shipping containers and alike into sheltered accommodation. You might even provide a meal for this people from the tons of food wasted by supermarkets on a daily basis.
But most of all it requires the will of Government. And that is what is sadly lacking.