This was a question put to me by reporters from the Echo today. They were ringing me in connection with the fact that 2 rough sleepers have been stabbed in the past 4 days here in Southend. (2 very good blog posts on the subject can be found here – a very well written piece – and here) I explained that as a Street Pastor I had witnessed rough sleepers being punched, kicked, verbally attacked, urinated on whilst they were sleeping, been human trafficked, stabbed and even one Autumn where someone was going round giving out bottles of poisoned water to the rough sleepers. They are in a very vulnerable position and need our protection.
I was asked today at church if the Winter night shelters would open early to get them off the street to which i said they are unlikely to be in a viable state at the moment and that the night shelters are only a temporary measure to get rough sleepers through the coldest months and shouldn’t be seen as a long term solution.
The Echo reporter suggested the police could look after them but if you ask the police, they are doing that already and Operation Zest and moving them on from the High Street is for their safety ( no comment – ed). But they are stretched and have limited resources.
I pressed home the fact that the easiest way to protect rough sleepers is to make sure they aren’t out on the streets in the first place. we all have houses which for the whole bring security and shelter not afforded to those on the street and so we need to be doing more to ensure that people arent on the street in the first place.
Bearing that in mind I was thrilled that the government today announced their backing of the Homeless reduction Bill ( details of the Bill can be found at http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2016-17/homelessnessreduction.html) Friday is a key date with the 2nd reading of the Bill. We need 100 MPs to attend and as you can see from the responses i have recieved and am aware of, we are still about 5 short.
One (though not the only thing) thing we can do is pray. I have emailed a lot of the church prayer chains this morning in order to pray for protection but also that the Bill passes through on Friday.
Keep our homeless friends in your thoughts in this trying period.