Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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I\'ve had enough

May 24 2009
Few charities speak out over hot washing or the attempted ban of soup runs, says a reader who has reached the end of his tether Dear Editor, I'm writing to you as someone who has read your magazine since it first came out, alongside your many homeless readers. After eight years in the charitable sector, mainly working with the homeless, I've become disillusioned and have decided to leave. Few charities speak out over, or appear to have concerns about, issues such as hot washing the places where homeless people sleep or the attempted ban of soup runs. I got fed up attending homeless forum meetings. Whenever I raised concerns about how some councils work, the room would go quiet; yet at the end of meetings, when no one was looking or could hear, someone would always come up and say they agreed with what I'd said. The attempted banning of free food was the final straw: I saw it as an attempt to stop providing something that many of your readership need to survive. The idea that people "choose" to stand out in freezing temperatures for a cup of soup and that this created dependency was ludicrous, yet most campaigning homeless charities I spoke to, kept quiet - though they had initially been concerned; others either pretended it wasn't happening or perhaps agreed with the proposal. This seemed to be an act of desperation from those in charge who had run out of ideas. When St Mungo's are quoted by the BBC as saying how wonderful it is that there are only 69 recorded rough sleepers in Westminster and Jerry Swain from Thamesreach responds to a report that most charities feel under pressure from their funders by with the words "I think they need to shape up", I feel as if I'm listening to the government instead of charities. The reality is that many services for the homeless are harder to access and the criteria for getting into hostels gets tougher by the day. Why is there not more of a debate about these issues? When councils quote statistics saying how great it is that homeless applications have dropped dramatically, why aren't we telling the world that this may be due to many councils' increasingly aggressive policy of gatekeeping to stop people being assessed, let alone housed? Homeless Link has praised the government's vision for ending homelessness. Yet barring some form of miracle, I doubt they "will see rough sleeping ended in our time" if they do not deal with the problems that create homelessness in the first place: poverty and inequality. We would need to improve our current housing stock; build thousands of new affordable homes; introduce a far higher minimum wage and benefits that cover the high cost of living, to name some of the obvious problems that people who are homeless generally face along with the 13m in poverty in the UK. A few, such as Housing Justice and the Simon Community, still challenge things; and Advice UK and the National Coalition for Independent Action have started a lonely battle to defend the independence of charities. However, unless others get behind them, as far as I am concerned, homeless charities will end up doing nothing more than helping to implement government policy instead of helping the homeless. And many more may end up among the growing numbers of hidden homeless who are moved out of the sight of the tourists in London. Mark Murton
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