Homeless man sleeping in sleeping bag on cardboard

Police have launched a crackdown on homeless people, it has been reported.

There have been reports across the country of police officers stealing ‘confiscating’ donated sleeping bags and food from people who “commit” rough sleeping.

This of course, overlooks the fact that the vast majority are not “committing rough sleeping” by choice.

Anyway, in a bid to protect the hell out of us, the Met says it has “joined forces” with six London boroughs, including Croydon, to “combat begging and rough sleeping”.

Those found rough sleeping and begging could also be given an Asbo.

It follows an unsuccessful attempt by Croydon Police to have a soup kitchen for the homeless and needy banned from a town centre park.

In otherwords, unable to solve real crime, the police have decided that the homeless are such a threat to our society and way of life, that they have concluded giving them an Asbo and a criminal record will help to set them on the straight and narrow.

Yeah because, you know, I’m sure an Asbo would work wonders on a person who doesn’t even have a fixed address. Essentially, it is punishing people for being in a situation that they have little control over.

In Ilford, the phrase ‘you’re nicked’ has taken on a slightly ironic if depressing meaning, as the boys in blue have been busy taking stuff from the homeless.

One of the men, Adam Jaskowiak, told reporters: “They were just taking the sleeping bags and chucking out everything. I asked to keep it and the food, but they said no.”

The food parcels, incidentally, had been donated by the public.

The intention seems to have been to move them on, although where to is not exactly clear.
Perhaps to another police catchment area, I suppose.

The local chief inspector John Fish said the scheme was designed to: “Reduce the negative impact of rough sleepers. This includes the need for us to assist in the removal of temporary structures, tents, and bedding from public spaces and other inappropriate locations.”

So that begs the question, where would be an appropriate location for a homeless person to go to?

Well, authorities in Utah have the answer. They have helped to end homelessness, by um, giving people homes.

In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker. So, the state began giving away apartments, with no strings attached.

Under the Housing First initiative, participants were assigned a caseworker to help them become self-sufficient, but they got to keep the apartment even if they failed.

The program has been so successful that other states are hoping to achieve similar results with programs modeled on Utah’s.

In 2009, The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and The National Coalition for the Homeless published a report called ‘Homes not Handcuffs’ which concluded that permanent housing for the homeless is cheaper than criminalization. In otherwords, housing is not only more human, it’s economical.

The evidence appears to suggest that rather than wasting public funds on getting the police to arrest rough sleepers, instead of rapists and murderers, the money would be better spent on helping those people to provide for themselves.

Although the sight of homeless people may be an “inconvenience” to people who would prefer to pretend that there are no problems in society, or to those that would rather the streets were gentrified and looked pretty, arresting the homeless or telling them to move on does not in fact, solve the issue.

It merely, moves the issue. And perpetuates it, as those with criminal records are less likely to be able to obtain jobs if they manage to find a person or charity willing to help them submit work applications. Instead, they will essentially be trapped in a life of crime – making it more of a hassle for all concerned.

Therefore, it is clear that the best solution for permanently reducing homelessness, is to work on the causes of homelessness, and to give those people access to resources to help them to become more productive to society.

In Utah, homelessness has been reduced by 78 percent, and the state is on track to end homelessness by 2015.

Meanwhile, in London, the police continue to round up homeless people for the purposes of stealing their sleeping bags and food.

The mind boggles.

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