Is There An Answer?
Liz Harsant was elected Counsellor in 2002 to represent Holywells Ward and in 2004 became Leader of Ipswich Borough Council, in a joint administration (Conservatives /Lib Dems) for 6½ years. Amongst other things, community spirit is one of the reasons that Liz has decided to write for Waterfront Life.
I was waiting in a local restaurant for some friends to arrive for dinner, when one of the rough sleepers frequently seen around Ipswich came into the restaurant. He isn’t very old - probably in his 20’s - but clearly with a drug and alcohol problem. The owner said he would get him a pizza as usual and I asked the young man why he hadn’t reported to the Chapman Centre or gone to one of the Churches which was offering a bed for the night. He had “been banned” he said. I could see he was not well, he could hardly speak and he was frightened because I suppose I sounded ‘official’. He dashed out of the restaurant with his pizza and a bottle of beer.
We are told as Councillors that we should discourage this show of kindness and that rough sleepers should be pointed towards the wonderful Chapman Centre, or one of the Churches that have done so much good work over the last few months. However, we are not all in local government; we have a heart, we see these rough sleepers as people not as an annoying blot on the landscape and we want to help. We don’t understand why there isn’t a night shelter for them. Why, when their lives are ruined by drug and alcohol addiction, are they chucked aside waiting for some kind person like the restauranteur to give them a meal?
Is there an answer? The government is giving us more money to help local authorities to deal with homelessness & rough sleepers and there’s a Bill going through Parliament – our MP Ben Gummer supports this and says it will help. More and more charities are opening up to help the most marginalised people in Society and now we are to have a converted double decker bus ready at the end of March, when the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter run by the Churches, closes. Is this the answer? We shall see but whatever the answer is it, is a very sad reflection on our society.