Opinion: ‘Spare a thought for the homeless’

Original article written by Stephen Fear for the Bristol Post Newspaper on 4th December 2019 (also featured on Business-Live.co.uk on 8th December 2019).

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Stephen Fear of Bristol property company Fear Group discusses what the city can do to help alleviate homelessness

As Christmas approaches our thoughts turn to celebrating with family and friends.

Sadly in Bristol, as in many other places around the UK, the same can’t necessarily be said for the homeless.

As a former patron of homeless charity Emmaus, which does a wonderful job trying to alleviate the problem, I saw with my own eyes the devastating effect homelessness has on individuals and their families.

One of the often overlooked symptoms of being homeless is loneliness.

There are people who feel that rough sleepers shouldn’t have dogs, but having an animal to snuggle up to, especially when sleeping in a cold damp shop doorway, is surely a fundamental human right in an advanced democratic society.

It is a poor indictment of successive governments that not enough has been done to eradicate the problem.

It’s no good blaming any of the political parties in isolation because none have ever done enough to make sure our citizens have somewhere warm and safe to sleep at night.

There are many causes of homelessness and alcoholism and drug addiction are only two.

Surely the time has come for the assets of illegal drug dealers to be confiscated, with all the proceeds going towards helping the homeless find somewhere to live and get their lives back on track?

Some of the receipts from confiscation orders might already drift into this area but I know of no deliberate decision to focus all of it on alleviating homelessness.

If we are going to issue more confiscation orders for major drug dealers, perhaps alcohol producers could pledge some of their profits to providing more facilities and rehabilitation programmes too? Maybe the next government needs to look at that.

I don’t think the various religious faiths do enough either. Most churches and other places of worship are empty at night.

Surely some, if not all, can be opened, especially during winter, so that people with nowhere to sleep can find a camp bed for the night?

I’m certain there would be many responsible volunteers willing to manage the arrangements.

Who knows, many of the rough sleepers who find comfort in this way might become converts to whichever denomination helped them. Coffee tea and a bit of breakfast would be nice too.

Christmas is a time when we should all turn our thoughts to people who may not have somewhere to celebrate.

I would encourage anyone walking past a homeless person, or seeing a rough sleeper, to not only give them something warm to eat or drink but to speak to them too.

They can pester a bit at times but if I was cold, hungry and lonely I would do a bit of pestering too. Wouldn’t you?

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