28 April, 2006

Preventions better than the cure.

Over the last few years I have heard people like John Bird the founder of the big issue say things on homelessness and it's prevention. Mr Bird thinks we should plough more money into prevention rather than spend it on the people that need help right now when I told him that only more homeless people would suffer. His reply was yes some will but the end result would be that we could prevent more youngsters from ending up in the vicious circle of homelessness. So the end would justify the means. A cure to anything is hard to find and sometimes I wonder if the problem of homelessness has risen to the point that something drastic has to be done. Have we let the problem grow to large that the government have to spend more and more each year and will the government ever finally admit that they have got their figures on homelessness wrong. I have to admit that at the beginning of the Labours term in power they did try to reduce the problem of rough sleepers but now I believe the problem is roughly the same as it was and now with outreach workers from various agencies at it's lowest people that need the right kind of help are not being targeted and in some areas there simply are no longer outreach workers. the questions that should be put before any government committee are how do you prevent an abused child from running away from home? How do you prevent a drug addict from becoming homeless because as I have always said the worst thing about being an addict is drugs come before rent. How do you make a tolerant society take responsibility for it's members. Yes prevention is better than the cure. The question then becomes what is the cure and will it work for everyone?

People are just people

Whenever we see someone sleeping in a shop doorway or some subway on our way to work, we look and think my god what a shame. I know I sometimes do and I have lived that way myself for many years but people are only the people and when you become so used to seeing something sad you become desensitized to it. We take it for granted that by some miracle it's not us that sleep out in the cold and rain at night. Most people including politicians think hostels are one of the solutions. Temporary accommodation or is it? There are people still in hostels up and down the country that have been there for years and to be frank have got used to the idea this is where they now live and they not moving anywhere. Is this right? I don't think so but where do you put 380,000 people and what do you do with them once you get them somewhere? Most people that have been on the streets have lost their sense of value because society hasn't valued them and has left them to their own devices. Which have been mostly on how to survive life on the streets and to be honest it's always been, anyway you can. The story of the woman living in her car is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more stories no one gets to read about like a man in Norwich that lives in a building that has half been demolished or the girl in Bristol that lives in a shed these are just a two. We face in this country alone, a massive problem of what we call hidden homeless and these can be people sleeping on friend's floors, hotels, hostels, squats and even with a family that don't want you. The list goes on. Will homelessness ever be cured and what happens if we have a stock market crash as many people I speak to these days are worried that prices are now so over inflated that something has to give. The saying home is where the heart is but if your homeless where is the heart

Good Politicians

I have been reading and watching a bit of the news lately and it seems to me that good politicians are supposed to be squeaky clean and have no normal life. Who really wants to be a politicians these days anyway? When you are always in the spot light and under the microscope. Normal people have affairs and argument's. So why not politicians? We all know it not right when it does happen but it happens. Politicians make mistakes some have been huge over the last twenty to thirty years. We had the profumo affair. The Tory minister David Mellor and his toe sucking affair with what's her name and just lately we have had a labor minister Mr blunket doing his political suicide thing twice.
When we elect someone in to political office we expect them to be holier than thou. Is this right who know? The thing is and this is only the way I see it, people are people and life has it's little quirks like marriage and divorce, being faithful and faithless. Villains and honest people, ect: but isn't this what eventually makes us who we are and what kind of life we eventually we lead? That sounds funny coming from me as I haven't been the most consistent guy in the world. Shouldn't it be that the person can do the job he was elected to do. Shouldn't this be the most important thing or is it that we expect a lot more than that. not that i am saying we should elect crimminals or anything but mistakes in life are a common occurance? It's just a thought.

26 April, 2006

Super hostels

Firstly I have given my computer at home and in the office a rest for a week and had a short holiday because I have been through one of my most difficult phases since I stopped using drugs but now I am back with a new lease of life and a new outlook. Plus a change in wardrobe.

Now, this government seem to want to do things on huge scales and they think the way to get people off the streets is to build bigger hostels in fact build super hostels to cope with the bed shortage but I think the government seem to forget is there is a huge shortage now and by the time they get to building these hostels they will have to build more which will cost more and will be harder to manage. The government always put one figure and it always costs more. Hostels are not meant to be permanent. They are meant just a temporary place for people to stay. They are meant as a stop gap to people getting their own place. The question I am asking is where and when are they going to move on to their own permanent accommodation? Because the housing shortage at this minute is dangerously low. By the time people are ready to move on. Will they have learned the necessary skills to keep their homes? This is only one of the problems homeless people face when they get their own place because they have lived on the streets they lose that charge in life and some of the skills people need to cope with everyday life.
The other thing is the idea of serious offenders who are put on license or paroled. Everyone should be entitled to have somewhere to live but putting serious offenders together just creates another problem. When offenders get together they talk about crime it's just one of those things but they also learn about crime that is why I have always maintained that the best school for learning how to commit a crime is prison and this is the worry of residents near hostels at the present moment. The home office have emphasized the need to provide secure accommodation but how can they? This is the question in the publics mind. One of the reforms of the home office was to give offenders bans on going to sports grounds and have limits imposed on how much alcohol they drink. Funny but true. How on earth are they going to do this give them release id cards and every time they go to a shop get it stamped. To me this does make much sense. The governments shake up in the probation system was and is needed but we always seem to shut the gate after the horse has bolted and the public out cry over several offenders that where released and went on to commit murder is still high. the thing is should these people have been let out of prison in the first place. I think we have to look at this first before shutting the gate.

20 April, 2006


This week has been a not so average week because of some of the choices I have had to make but they got me to thinking that everyone has to make them sooner or later and the outcome of some of the choices you make are not so good. Take the prime minister decision to go to war on Iraq. He has always maintained that it was because of the information that was in front of him. A difficult decision for any one to make especially a leader of a country but I wonder was it just to remove a dictator or was it a decision made on what he actually knew about this man and his atrocities or was it the thought of one man and the oil of that country? He made the decision to go to war and most of Britain disagreed with him but still he went. Was this a good choice or a bad one when lives are still being lost? I am just thankful that I don't have to make choices like that. This week I have a to make choices myself and are they right or wrong? Who knows? Only me because they were right for me at the time. Years ago I made some choices that lead me to being homeless and a drug addict, bad choices at the time but they have all lead me where I am today. I know I have learned things the hard way but at least I can now say I have learned from them.

19 April, 2006

Just an idea for a children story.

Fred was just a normal everyday common sort of gold fish. That had been accidentally flushed down a toilet because it's owner thought he was dead and by some strange miracle had somehow survived the terrible journey, through all the pipes and fast running rivers and was now swimming in the ocean with friends he had made along the way. When one day his friend Jasper who was a flat fish said that if he was caught in a net on the surface of the ocean he would become part of a child's happy meal and that made him so sad because he was so small, the wrong colour and it wasn't his dream to be anyone's meal. He was so mad at what jasper had said that he started to shout in bubble language. You are a fiber, a great big liar, you will go to Neptunes den and he will set your fins on fire. Your just a great big liar. You're no friend of mine. Still angry he swam and swam for what seemed miles and miles until he was so tired he just had to stop and rest. While he was resting a great big white shark came swimming by. It stopped, glared at him and groaned. There's no way, no way at all that I'm I going to eat you, you, you are far too small and I only eat things that are big fat and juicy and at least six inches tall. Then the shark stared for a while longer as if it was changing his mind. Then suddenly it started to swim away. The shark looked back and bared its white teeth and then swam away fast. Fred thought oh no its changed its mind. Its going to come back and began to swim as fast a he could but before the shark disappeared from view fred thought he heard him say. You might be far too small but this I promise. I will be back even if it's just to make you my midday snack. For I am a great white and have a big appetite and I'll eat anything just for a lark. Fred swam to a stop and was shaking from head to tail. So if you have a gold fish and it has stopped swimming and looks like it is shaking uncontrollably. It might be Fred.
This is as far as I got but I thought it would make a change to show what I can do with my imagination now I have found out that I actually do have one. No one would have thought this possible five years ago, when I was taken to a shelter for Christmas. Funny thing is though over the last few years. I have learned that nothing is impossible

18 April, 2006

It's enough to make you go bald

Today was supposed to be a good day. I went to the post office to get my sickness benefit and all I got was three pounds seventy four pence. So of I went to the job center and sat from 10 30am till 2 15pm to be told sorry but income support are paying part of your benefit and incapacity are paying you the rest. So then I asked to be paid in my own polite way and was told that I have been paid and the rest of my money was sent to the post office and would be paid in the next couple of days due to the holiday.
I sat there and thought for a second or two and said excuse me but over the last three years I have had nothing but aggravation over one thing and another over my benefit. Surely it would have been smarter for the two agencies to get together like they have been doing and one agency pay me what benefit I am due. To me that seems a smart thing to do and as I have this feeling that I am not the only one in this predicament. It would be cost effective and less time consuming. The answer I got was not very nice ( smart Arse or something similar) No wonder people struggle to get their payments on time when you have two or three agencies that do not communicate with each other. The other thing that springs to my mind is how much money is wasted by government systems that simply do not work. So now I'm sitting here sort of relieved that I didn't spend the full week in Birmingham as I had planned but I am sort of dreading what's going to happen next. God no wonder people start to go bald with worry. I wonder if there are a lot of bald people on benefit that had a full head of hair when they first claimed.

Another brain wave

Firstly I hope everyone had a good Easter. I did. I went to Birmingham and spent sometime with my sister who got on my nerves in the end. Then I missed my train and had to hitched it back. Just got home about twenty minutes ago and boy am I tired. I got chatting to some people in a car on the way home and we got to talking about homelessness and how come it so hard to get out of once your in. I said it was hard because no one truly understands what it's like to be homeless, having to live day by day just about surviving. Then when I said things like jobs in that area could be found for the people who have been there got the tshirt so to speak. They could put that experiences to good when I said it's not the fault of charities for not employing more people and that it was because they simply couldn't afford to pay a decent wage. The answer I got was what about the government? Couldn't they help? After all they waste so much money on schemes that don't work. Why not tell them to try something that does work for a change. So it was on this subject I pondered on the way home. Here's what I came up with, if it costs the government around ten thousand a year to keep one person on unemployment benefit. Why not put money aside for a scheme for exhomeless people to work in that area. Lets say thirteen thousand a year. Then the organization after the first year either employs them their selves or moves them on to other organizations. It costs that much to keep someone on benefits if you count all the additional cost like job centers ect. Wouldn't that money be better spent on people helping other people who are now in the position they were? Then those people could continue to do the same when they have got out of the circle of homelessness. I am always asking the question, how can any homeless organization truly represent homeless people when they actually have no one who has been homeless working for them? The answers I get are we can't afford to or theirs no positions available. So why doesn't this government set up something? So that these organizations can employ these people. It has been estimated by the year twenty fifteen there will be roughly one million hidden homeless and street homeless. In Birmingham there has been a slight increase in the number of homeless people actually sleeping rough but this is the same all around the country. The government say no there are not many sleeping out on the streets but the public say different because they see it everyday of the week. Anyway that's my idea.

13 April, 2006

In court

Today I went to court to follow up a story I'd heard about through a friend. It involved a homeless man and the breach of an asbo issued on behalf of Westminster council. he pleaded not guilty and was remanded on bail for three weeks. So I did not get the story I wanted but firstly I thought to look at what asbo's really are, asbo stands for Anti-social behavior orders, were introduced in the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act and came into force in 1999. Asbos ban people from specific activities or from entering particular areas. They last a minimum of two years, but can be imposed for longer. The 2002 Police Reform Act and the 2003 Anti-Social behavior Act 2003 also contained measures on asbos. Asbos can be served against children over 10 years of age or against adults if they have behaved in an anti-social manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress, and that the order is necessary to protect persons from further anti-social acts. This has allowed asbos to be used to ban activity that is not in itself criminal, such as begging, prostitution and even playing football or being sarcastic. Most asbos are imposed after an application by a local authority or the police. Asbos are made by magistrates' courts after civil proceedings and may be made on the basis of hearsay evidence. Breaching an asbo is a criminal offence, carrying a penalty of up to five years' imprisonment, even when the original offence was not an imprisonable one. Around half of all asbos have been served on children and young people, who can be given detention training orders lasting up to two years. What was worrying to me and maybe so many people was the fact that an asbo can be issued on hearsay only. Which gives ground for it to be abused. The question that I am asking are asbos being used in the way they were meant? I'm hoping to site several cases brought before courts around the country in the coming weeks in the hope of shedding new light on the subject.

12 April, 2006

Does anything really change?

Yesterday instead of going into the crisis offices I thought it would make a change to spend a day with some homeless people I know that sleep out on the streets of London. It was just my luck that it was raining. Not only did I get soaked to the skin but I have caught a slight cold but it was worth it as it's been a few years since I was homeless myself and boy how things have changed. The struggle to just survive on the streets is still hard though. My first stop was at what is called the American church in London's west end were homeless People can get a hot drink and sandwiches. Then it was off to another day center to have a shower and get a change of clothes if you where lucky. That took from 11'clock till 2 30. Then there was nothing to do but sit and talk to other homeless people because to put it bluntly nobody has the time or the inclination to stop and talk to people that look a bit rough especially on a rainy day.
The day center we went to has computers. You can only use them if you want to look for work or on a course and you can't email anyone or look at your emails. When I asked why? The answer I was given was, there are two many wanting to use the computers everyday and it's too expensive just to let anyone use them as some abuse the system. So we think if you are on a course or looking for work this is the way forward for us. As per usual it's always the cost of things that stop most things happening.
It used to be that the day centers were there to help people off the streets or keep people in touch with normality wherever possible and to help them with food and a hot drink but today I think it's about helping people to cope with what's happening to them at this precise moment in time. The focus seems to be on the here and now. What happens in the future is a secondary result of what happens now. The thing is today homeless people are not seen as normal people by a large section of the public and who can blame them because some of these homeless people have serious problems. Such as drug and alcohol abuse, some have severe mental issues. The fact that some people see them as the problem is harmful in its self. We don't see them as someone's sons or daughters but the fact is they are all someone's sons and daughters and they are not the problem. They are the results of a problematic society that doesn't see an end or a way to change things for the good. So the problem is largely ignored or put on the back burner but everything changes eventually and I wonder will poverty and homelessness really become a thing off the past or will the struggle to recognize that we do have a hidden class in society continue?
Changing peoples perception of homelessness is always difficult at the best of times. It's took a film called Cathy come home to show Britain what was really going on in society and still goes on today but it is so hidden these days that we don't see it out in the open. We only hear about it on the news.
If you look at things logically, some things have changed. Not so many rough sleepers but we now have hidden homeless. Which you don't see. That's what governments want us to see. They want to be able to say, look we have cleared the streets of rough sleepers and they are not homeless anymore. It's just like a bad magic trick. You see them. Then they are gone but they are not really. They are all still there hidden away and that's just it. They are all still there but in hostels up and down this country, on friends floors, in bed and breakfasts. There seems to be no end in sight because there's no other place for them to go. Houses are not being built. Councils are passing people from one to another and even making it harder for people to sleep in city centers where it's reasonably safe for them. Once in a hostel it's a long wait and there's no guarantees. There is a chance sooner or later you will get a place but wont keep it because you don't know how to because life on the street although hard was different because you didn't have to worry about bills, shopping or cooking for yourself, keeping the place clean or even letting the right kind of people visit. Then there's the government who concentrate more and more on owning your own home. Which for most people is just a dream. For homeless people it's something of a fantasy, a pipe dream. Which will never come true unless there's a miracle

11 April, 2006

Not a good day

Today was not such a good day. I was out doing market research or whatever it was supposed to be but there I was talking to homeless people I know and for the first time in a long time I felt good. People that knew me were telling me how well I have done. Which was funny because I hardly knew some of them. I think we did well to talk to so many in such a short space of time but it wasn't that which disturbed me it was the man that died of a heart attack in Charing Cross station. There we were having a cup of coffee and talking. Then when we walked out, on the floor some medics were trying to revive someone. The woman behind me said it was a normal thing to see as it was probably some drug addict. That comment sort of woke me up to the fact that I was once a drug addict and had been one for some while. It didn't affect me until I got home. That was when I started to think about all the times I had overdosed and by some miracle I was still here. It's funny but I seem to have spent years surviving, not living life to it's fullest. So today was a not so good day but one to note as I suddenly realized we all have one thing in common and that is everything must end for us all. It was this that got me to thinking that no matter what, whether we are rich or poor. We all end up the same. Some of us have regrets and some off us have left undone the things we could have done so easily but that's life. Gone in the blink of an eye.

06 April, 2006

Expensive bricks and mortar

Over the years we have seen house prices rocket at an astonishing rate. The price of an average home is now £175,000 and there's not a lot of people that can afford one and if you are homeless or in temporary accommodation then owning your own home is a just pipe dream. As this government concentrates on the house buying public they are missing out on a chance to tackle the problem of fairer rents and what really can be done to help people, not only the homeless but everyone who has a problem with paying ever rising rents. Which is another thing that I seem to be coming across quite often. The other thing is people on benefits are being charged what is being deemed as service charges.This usually is the short fall which is what council benefit does not pay. It's down to the tenant to pay the extra and in most cases this causes a great shortfall in actaul monies people on benefit can spend on things like food and clothing ect but it also affects most people in the renting sector. To me this is like a small back door tax but it's really another loophole that needs to be fixed. It's sneaky but perfectly legal. There are so many things that can be done to help the poorer sections of our society but just like previous governments and the government we have now things will remain the same because governments are so focused on people that can afford to buy their home that they seem to have forgotten there have always been a section of society that can not and never will be able to afford the luxuries of a comfortable life.

05 April, 2006

Is the man next to you homeless

The typical stereo type of the homeless person is fast disappearing as the pictures we would normally associate homeless people with disappears. The man or woman carrying their worldly possessions seems to be just a thing of the past. Although you do see it now and again. Today it seems that homeless people only carry what they need to survive on the streets (which by the way is not a lot) We see all kinds of homeless people from business men to shop workers to just old people or the drug addict or alcoholic. They all dress in their customary work dress everyday. So it does become harder to distinguish homeless people as they try to hide the fact that they are in fact homeless. Why? Because being homeless is something people don't talk about or accept. Even the government steer a wide course.
I have stopped people in the street when I have done my on the spot interviews with ordinary people and it seems that some people believe it's the individuals fault that they are homeless. Some I would go as far as saying believe it's a genetic disorder someone suffers. It's so funny because when I tell them I used to be homeless and a drug addict they just look at me wide eyed and amazed. All I have to say it does not matter if you are a business man or a shop assistant you can fall into the homeless trap quite easily. All it takes is one mistake, a bad landlord, something you can't control or just plain and simple one moment of stupidity. It just doesn't matter. What matters is when you reach this crisis in your life that there is help. Today the problem seems to be that people are taken off the streets and stuck in to temporary accommodation that has no end. A quick fix would be to open all the unused flats and stick them in them but this would have the opposite effect for some people as they wouldn't know how to keep a flat. The fact that homelessness is a way of life for some people leaves them automatically at a disadvantage. The only way round this is to retrain them. Which takes money and time.

The Turner report and my opinion

For years pensions have only increased at a minimal rate and pensioners have suffered because of this. The turner report say to make pensions rise with pay rises and raise the retirement age to 68. Mr brown the chancellor is up beat about it but to me this is just one way to plug the 57 billion pensions shortfall. As per usual the government say we agree with it but the thing that they will not say out loud is crikey we can't afford it even if we raise the age of retirement to 68, 69, 70. Because the situation has got too bad. I think we have all heard about pensioners and the crisis they are in. Firstly I think we have a system that does not see the potential of pensioners. We see them as old people who are retired and place them in the used by date category. Secondly we have pensioners losing out at this present minute because of the private pensions crisis. Thirdly you can almost certainly bet if the government did do something worth while on pensions. It would take a few years to come into effect and it would only be another sticking plaster.
I can't see myself living to a ripe old age but if I did I would hope that getting old is not another stumbling block. Poverty is rife amongst the old and they do seem to be getting poorer. If we are to attempt to stamp it out we have to start too realized that a nation that is divided in to a society of class does not work. Only when thing are equal can we say we have society of equals.

04 April, 2006

Just thinking about me and the future

After five years of being normal I am beginning to wonder what kind of a life I am really living. I seem to have hit a patch in my life which leaves me desiring more than I have. There are so many people to thank over the last few years who have helped me no end and there are couple who I have to say goodbye to because it's now time for me to move on because I lead another kind of life now. I have a girlfriend who I see from time to time. I am always out and about these days. I work hard and play hard. Which is different. Everyone knows who I was and what I am now. My past is my past and I can't change it. What's sad are the people that are now slagging me off because I have a life of my own and want to lead it making my own decisions. Too many times I have let what people say really get to me. Not anymore.
My friend Alan is an alcoholic yet he has helped me get through some hard times and I rarely see him these days because I am leading a normal sort of life. The last time we talked it wasn't so friendly because he's drinking again after being sober for a couple of months. As usual he rants on and on until I politely tell him to shut up or f---off. After four years I have had to say enough is enough.
Leaving people I know behind is sad. Yet I know it's the right thing to do. I set my sights on helping people who are in the same situation as I was and I don't see how I can do that if I still have ties to my old life. I was once told you can only help the ones that want to be helped. I now am beginning to believe that no matter how much you try to help someone you won't until they ask for help.