Homeless In The New Forest
I was very grateful to be invited to attend an open part of a Labour Party meeting in Totton today, to listen to speakers on the subject of homelessness in the New Forest.
I have to say, it was deeply moving to hear about the scale of the problem locally, the lack of facilities, the way these people are judged and punished by “the system” and just how difficult it is to break out of the downward spiral that homelessness presents people with.
The main speaker was Katherine from the Totton based charity “It’s Your Choice“, who help about 100 desperate young people a year.
It’s shocking to learn that they face cuts in funding of over 60% and may even lose the headquarters, located in Salisbury Road.
She was accompanied by two young men, one of whom who is currently homeless and another she had been able to help.
They spoke about their experiences, the abuse they had suffered, the reasons they had lost a home, their struggles to live.
One of them had reached such a desperate place that he had even set fire to himself, just to get some help.
There are any number of rules that prevent people in these situations getting any assistance when they need it.
The only conclusion that you can draw is that society has failed them and continues to do so.
We tend to think that the New Forest is an affluent area that does not have a homeless problem.
The truth is that it is one of the worst areas in the country, but because of the geography, it is largely unseen.
People are sleeping in cars, in tents, (if lucky) on friend’s sofas.
It’s almost impossible to get a job without an address and of course, it also makes you very vulnerable to all sorts of exploitation.
The Government have recently published a Homelessness Reduction Act, adding to the obligations on local authorities to take action.
I don’t know if they are providing any resources (I rather doubt it), but I will seek to find out what the District Council plan to do.
Taking effective action will be a major priority for me.