We should have been in Milton Keynes today had we been able to walk towards Rome. We could be there this day next year assuming travel restrictions can be lifted within the coming year. Remembering that pandemic means everywhere, I wonder if it’s just a maybe that I’ll walk by Milton Keynes and visit the National Museum of Computing in nearby Bletchley in 2021. Or will it be 2022?
I opened last year’s diary earlier and found a note about homelessness from this day last year. Consequently, we’re at home wondering what happened to the homeless? I recall that Shelter estimated there were over 300,000 homeless people in the UK in 2018. A very recent BBC radio interview covered a few of the challenges faced by those housing the homeless in the pandemic. There are many reasons that people end up homeless, among them addictions, mental illness and sociopathy. All of these surface as challenges to the authorities trying to house and protect people who have become accustomed to life on our streets. I think there has been a mis-step in helping the homeless in this crisis, creating an unintended consequence. The facilitating bureaucracy in the UK seemed to adapt an off-the-shelf approach from criminal justice, an isolation as punishment rather than rehabilitation. The homeless protection plan seems focussed on reducing the spread of disease by the homeless rather than directly looking after the needs of the homeless themselves. The addicted continue to shoot-up. The sociopaths ignore social distancing. The depressed can and do defenestrate. This does not augur well for what happens after the pandemic to those homeless now rehoused. It’ll rate as an opportunity missed at a time when there is effectively unlimited money available to address the underlying issues rather than simply concentrating them into hotels and the like. This is a world wide problem.
The Simon Community in Ireland estimates there are over 7000 people in emergency accommodation in Dublin alone.
And what happened to others in need of support? Domestic abuse? Child help lines? Alcoholics Anonymous? Samaritans? And many more besides?
I can’t forget that this day last year I met a guy in London called … perhaps it’s best I don’t tell you his name. He told me he was homeless and struggling to get around in his wheelchair. He told me his very sad story of being an electrical engineer and scientist who ended up being ‘badly injured, neglected, mistreated, robbed, wrongly accused, targeted and disrespected by public services and other people that the police does not want to investigate.’ He gave me a printed list of his challenges which also lists details of the myriad painkillers he’s used and conveniently, his website. I gave him some cash for the meal he craved. I’m not linking you to his site nor suggesting you search him out. I can tell you that I kept his sheet in a diary. I’ve reread his story today and while we might conclude that he’s a fantasist, I want you to know that the paper still reeks of his homelessness. And it’s reeking homelessness that limits the care people like him can access. A vicious circle or a defeating spiral that the majority of society choses to ignore.
We should address homelessness now. It could be done promptly, effectively, as evidenced by the support that the rest of society is getting. Maybe the opportunity hasn’t passed. After all, Milton Keynes itself was only built in the 1960s. Our will be done in Europe?