The homeless industry gets its coffers filled by donations from the public.
This weekend past was peak homelessness as the annual Sleep Out in the Park event took place in four cities across Scotland.
Last year we were told that they raised £4 million to go towards tackling, or ending, homelessness. This year at least the the same will be raised again and that can be added to the lump sum of £10 million Nicola Sturgeon promised every year for the next five years
But what are they doing to tackle homelessness? Building homes? Or reopening the council owned hostels they closed?
Not as far as we can see. Social Bite, who run the Sleep Outs, are building homeless villages and funding yet more research into homelessness.
Social Bite are new and they are raising a lot of awareness about the issue but the problem is they are doing nothing radical and are working alongside the same people who got us in this mess in the first place.
It seems straight forward to most people – to tackle homelessness then you must build homes to end the housing crisis and thereafter have proper facilities for those rough-sleepers with complex addiction and mental health issues.
What we don’t really need is more research, like this piece funded by Social Bite about ill suited temporary accommodation.
We agree that temporary flats are damaging. But it should also be pointed out that the use of temporary furnished flats (TFFs) came from the ‘end homelessness’ policy makers and academics that decided upon using them in the first place.
It was they who decided to end the old system and stop using council owned homeless hostels and replace them with the private B&Bs and TFFs that remain today.
Now admittedly the hostels were dens of iniquity where some people became institutionalised but rather than close them down, they should have been reinvested in by improving the services, rather than shutting them down.
The present system of admitting people with massive complex issues into private B&Bs or hostels where there is no support whatsoever is one of the reasons why we are seeing so many people on the streets.
After a short spell in the B&B they are moved into a TFF. These are usually almost always literal miles away from the area they became homeless. Rent is sky high because the council have to rent them from private associations and then furnish them so users cannot go out and work.
Leaving them to a rather miserable existence until the council or a housing association decide to give them their own accommodation.
Many with complex needs prefer to tough it out on the streets than go through the above.
B&Bs are TFFs also both come at a massive cost to the housing benefit bill and must far outweigh what the local authorities used to pay to run their own facilities.
Yet these same policy makers and academics who decided this system of private B&BS and TFFs are telling us today that is in fact not the way to end homelessness and have come up with a new project call Housing First, which social bite are backing.
We hope Housing First does indeed work, but a cynic would suggest it is just the latest doomed effort from those in authority. The same people who have made an industry out of homelessness where an extra £14 million was raised last year, on top of the tens of millions already being spent, and there is no discernible difference on our streets.
That is not to say no good comes from Sleep Outs. Our own group have benefited massively from donations from the Celtic Foundation after their annual event and our founding member, Dermot Hill, participates every year.
We just want action. One of Social Bite’s Sleep Out’s should have been enough. The thought of multimillionaires like Bob Geldolf coming up here and lecturing us about poverty every year should give those with power the incentive they need to start doing it properly!
Tickets for the event are advertised on Itson with live bands promoted and it has almost a festival-like vibe to it.
Social Bite’s Sleep Outs have been good for raising awareness but the public are well aware of the homeless problem on our streets now and have done their bit.
Tory austerity is causing the increasing levels of poverty seen in the country but our own politicians and local authorities still have considerable resources and are wasting them.
Well done to all you hardy souls who braved the elements at the weekend. We just wish those with power to change shared your spirit.