A Unite Community activist who volunteers with the homeless has blasted shameful Tory councillors for neglecting rough sleepers and “demonising” them in a tasteless advertising campaign.
Gloucester City Council (GCC) have put up posters of an individual in a hooded jumper begging with a cup in an attempt to dissuade people from giving money to rough sleepers.
The poster states, “Are you really helping homeless people?
“In some cases, the people you see sleeping rough are not homeless. They are in accommodation, receiving support and benefits.”
It then suggests donating to a charity or contacting homeless outreach workers instead.
Unite Community member Steve Gower, who works with rough sleepers in Gloucester, said the advert demonises already very vulnerable people and branded the council’s support for the homeless “utterly inadequate”.
Gower said, “Eight people died in a B&B used by the council and outreach teams as temporary accommodation in 2017 alone. The landlady spoke out after seeing the terrible consequences the lack of support and funding cuts have had.
Causes of death
“There are continual cases at Gloucester coroner’s office related to suicides, overdoses and other causes of death at establishments signposted as supported housing.”
Not only is the council neglecting services for the homeless, they also attempted to prevent the county’s only emergency shelter for rough sleepers from opening, explained Unite Community member Sue Powell.
The homeless shelter, which sleeps 15 people and receives no local authority funding, opened this month – despite objections from GCC.
Powell said, “They claimed (the objection) was part of an antisocial behaviour strategy and have now added insult to injury by calling on people not to give cash or support to rough sleepers but to report their presence on the street and give to charity instead.
“The next inevitable step is to issue penalties to the street homeless. GCC ask kind-hearted donors: Are you really helping the homeless? We know that GCC isn’t.”
Lack of affordable housing
The lack of support for rough sleepers in Gloucester is linked to the wider issues of a lack of affordable housing and rising levels of inequality, explained Unite Community regional coordinator Brett Sparkes, who said GCC’s disregard for vulnerable people is “straight out of the playbook of their party’s representatives in central government”.
“While homelessness linked to addiction is a complex issue with no one quick fix, the fact is that under this government the housing crisis has gone from bad to worse. Lack of social housing, exorbitant rents and poverty wages are leaving far too many individuals and families without a home,” said Sparkes.
“This is in turn heaps pressure onto homelessness services, which have also been cut to the bone, and reduces the resources available to those who are chronically homeless because of drugs or alcohol.
“If we had a government that was willing to create a fair economy that pays decent wages, build enough council homes and adequately fund public services, perhaps GCC would have a better example to follow.”
GCC responding to criticisms by saying it is doing “a huge amount of work” to help homeless people.