On the subject of homeless people

Last Saturday night, as temperatures plunged to -0.8C, his son Paul Williams, 38, bedded down at his regular spot outside the Wagamama restaurant in the city’s Bullring shopping centre. On Sunday, he failed to wake up. An initial post-mortem has proved inconclusive.

Father and son had not met for 15 years, their relationship having slowly corroded through Paul’s drinking.


Paul was not alone when he died on the pavement under a large vent that streams warm air downward from the restaurant, making it a desirable spot for street sleepers. Sleeping next to him was Alan McTaggart, 65, a former factory worker, who found himself on the streets three years ago when the death of his partner triggered depression and lost him his home.

Mental health.

If Paul got a place to stay, he would not take it if it meant leaving McTaggart on the streets alone. “And vice versa,” said McTaggart.

On the Tuesday before his death, Paul had been found a room through Rik James, the founder of BHO, who contacted support officers at Provident Housing. He had been given a duvet, a pillow and a box of toiletries. Provident Housing was trying to organise a bank account so that he could receive benefits.

On the Thursday, support officer Craig Parkin noticed Paul’s room emptied of his few possessions and his duvet. He asked if he still wanted the room. “Paul said ‘Yes, yes’. He got quite emotional,” said Parkin.

But Paul did not return to it. “He just wouldn’t leave Alan alone on the streets,” said James, “and I feared for them both.”

Not, in fact, needing to sleep on the streets.

As I’ve said before the rough sleeping contingent is made up of two groups. Those with mental health or addiction problems and those passing through the state on an extremely temporary basis. Further, the problem is not in fact in finding the long termers a roof under which they may lay their weary heads. It’s keeping them in it once one has been found.

Quite what we do about this is something else. It’s just not a shortage of roofs though is it?

26 thoughts on “On the subject of homeless people”

  1. You’re at it again Worstall with your fake news ‘facts’ about the problems of the deprived (like water shortages during the US hurricanes).

    Compassion is what is needed, provided by the State using ‘rich’ people money to do so. A sensible analysis of the problems doesn’t help a socialist agenda.

    In any case, whatever you say, it’s the fault of the evil Tories austerity cutting budgets of their are no places for drunk tramps to spend the night without freezing.

  2. That temperature is very precise. I don’t know any weather-related thermometer that can measure more precisely than 0.5C, and a 0.2C precision is several multiples of the variance caused by just being close enough to observe the readout.

  3. I’ve been told, anecdotally, that the largest contingent is young teenagers (boys especially) who have had an argument with their parents and been kicked out of the house. (From someone working for ‘Shelter’.) They usually go round and have a word with their mum, and in most cases get them to take them back.

    For accuracy’s sake, someone might like to check. I can’t be bothered, myself.

    It doesn’t change your conclusion.

  4. So Much For Subtlety

    Socialism has a problem with freedom. Social Democracy emerged in societies like Sweden – racially and culturally homogeneous Middle class societies where everyone shared the same values more or less. Where people share values, they share views on what duties and obligations each member of society has, they agree on what a good life style choice is, they agree on what decisions are acceptable.

    The problem we have is what to do with people who make other choices or cannot conform to the Middle Class life pattern for some reason or other – mental health or drug use for instance. In a free society many of those people end up on the street.

    The Social Democrats have had other solutions. Some they have imprisoned in mental health facilities for instance. Which is not a bad solution and one we ought to think about. But some they sterilized so that their values and/or genes were not passed on to the next generation of young Swedes. This reached its ultimate expression in the socialist Nazi movement in German. Many were imprisoned, some were sterilized, far more were simply killed. The T4 euthanasia programme is the logical and inevitable outcome of the Social Democrats in power.

    So do we want to go down that path? Or are we willing to grant more freedom to people to make the choices they want to make? Even though that means some will sleep rough.

  5. And see also Frances Ryan’s latest ‘the eeeevil Tories are killing the disabled!’ sobfest in the ‘Guardian’, as she lambasts society for not providing accessible living accommodations for a disabled person with such cataclysmic physical and mental issues she demands to be referred to as ‘they’.

  6. Talking of the Graun, I’m more shocked that they’ve actually ventured outside the M25 and found the provinces.

  7. So if you have mental health and booze problems (and no money) you must die .A fine Christmas message from TW.
    If the problem is Socialism (which I can dimly remember) , why is it getting worse after successive Nasti party governments?

  8. Allthegoodnamesaretaken


    The Grauniad doesn’t come up with any answers. Solving problems is far too difficult. All they do is blame the eeeevil Tories.

  9. So Much For Subtlety

    john the bridge – “Talking of the Graun, I’m more shocked that they’ve actually ventured outside the M25 and found the provinces.”

    Yeah but it looks like, as with most sensible people, they stepped off the train, took one look at Birmingham’s Bullring and went right back to London.

    It is amazing how much of Birmingham is so beautiful – around the City Hall for instance – and yet how much seriously hard work has been put in to destroying as much of it as possible.

    DBC Reed – “So if you have mental health and booze problems (and no money) you must die .A fine Christmas message from TW.”

    Not must die. In a free society you should be free to make your own choices as far as possible. Which includes a risk of death. We should be free to climb mountains, ski steep slopes, pull a sledge to the North Pole, whatever. Which includes sleeping rough if you so choose. These people were not forced to sleep rough. They chose to do so.

    By all means let’s agree that the mentally ill ought to be forcibly sectioned for their own good. All of them.

    “If the problem is Socialism (which I can dimly remember) , why is it getting worse after successive Nasti party governments?”

    The more money we spend on homeless the more homeless we get. And spending has only ever gone up.

  10. DNR sticks his lumpen head out of his carboard box under the concrete motorway bridge to shout out a Christmas tirade of love and good cheer for all the human race.

  11. DBC takes a comment from Tim regarding a guy with a roof over his head who nevertheless chose to sleep rough and died as Tim advocating that homeless people should die.

    That’s pretty sick right there.

  12. My nearest metropolis has closed the public lavatories over the festive period because druggies are using them to shoot up in and the discarded paraphernalia has become a health and safety issue. These characters are dotted about town begging money, and you can see from their eyes they inhabit another planet. Said metropolis is a mecca of touchy-feely liberals who were themselves ‘free spirits’ in their younger years, and everyone is queuing up the help the afflicted individuals. For whatever reason, however, they prefer to cling to the life they have – the world they inhabit. Until we choose to become a police state, you can only lead a horse to water.

  13. “If the problem is Socialism (which I can dimly remember) , why is it getting worse after successive Nasti party governments?”

    Because all we get in the UK (under red or blue) is more socialism. There is no mythical baby eating free market government out there, never has been, never will be (until the current format finally collapses under its own contradictions).

    If you think a State that provides cradle to grave provision for its population (OK its not very good provision, but then it is State provision , so that goes without saying) via massive redistribution of income and wealth is the very epitome of a free market let the devil take the hindmost State, then there’s not much I can do to convince you otherwise. I would point out that calling the blue governments names doesn’t actually make them the names you are calling them.

    Perhaps you should consider this little conundrum – all the evidence we have in this country is that whatever the State does, it does it badly. We see it all around us. Yet the likes of you consider that if only the State had even more of our money it would do better, without one bit of evidence that it true – State budgets increase constantly, yet nothing, anywhere within its activities ever improve. Even when someone like Gordon Brown splurges tens of billions of extra spending on the NHS for example.

    So I offer you a little festive thought – perhaps, just perhaps, the inability of the State to organise and operate efficiently is down to the inherent nature of the State, and not its lack of resources. After all the Soviet Union had 100% of the resources of a massive country and population at its disposal and it spectacularly failed to create a shining city on the hill………….

    Merry free market Christmas, one and all!!!

  14. Last Saturday night, as temperatures plunged to -0.8C

    Well, it got down to -8 or -10 around us and none of ours died.

    So if you have mental health and booze problems (and no money) you must die

    Really, I thought rounding people up and slaughtering them was the socialist solution.

    And, if you bothered to read the article, it wasn’t “mental health _and_ booze”. The nutter survived. The drunk who died didn’t have mental health problems.

  15. Oh, and I was talking to a Russian friend of mine a while back who talked about the complete absence of homelessness in Soviet Russia and attributed it to two reasons. “Firstly, everyone was offered state housing. Secondly, anyone who slept on the streets in winter froze to death”

  16. To the extent that government policy can do much about it, it seems largely to be “upstream” of the offer of a roof, which doesn’t seem to do much on its own. Alcohol and drug policy (particularly methadone programmes for the heroin users but goodness knows what they’ll do for the spice addicts we have now), mental health provision, the way street begging and prostitution are policed, making the benefits system work efficiently…

    But still, if someone gets kicked out of a hostel because they assaulted the staff or other residents, or because they tried to burn it down, or because they broke booze/drug rules there, or if they just walk right out because they find four walls claustrophobic and hate being subject to the rules … Well, then what?

    I wish I knew.

  17. Those of us who have worked with the homeless tend to despair of people thinking the solution is to offer housing.
    Its one of those simple, quick, easy to say solutions. And wrong.

    Getting a room to sleep in is part of a solution, being able to stay there is another, not being a danger to yourself and others yet another and so on.
    Many facilities, to protect staff and other users, are ‘dry’. No drink or drugs allowed on the premises and people under the influence not allowed in.
    Ever met a mean drunk? Find a few among the homeless. Ever been raped by a mean drunk? It happens. And separating genders doesn’t stop it – males can get raped by males.

    The solutions tend to be very individualistic and in a lot of instances, hard to impossible.
    A young man in his 40s, spent around 10 years in prison in last 30 years. In and out. He will beat someone up on the bus in order to get a few weeks or months inside. His criminal history includes arson, GBH and criminal damage.
    No place with beds will let him stay, they cannot as he is a danger to others.
    He’s had a flat before from the council – that’s where his arson charge came from. And the council are understandably reluctant to stick him in a block of flats again.
    The simple solution people say he should be entitled to a bed in a facility – but they won’t offer their own beds and he’s a major risk to any charity. He’s still violent now.
    Solution for him? So far no one has found one.

    That’s just one guy. I can point to dozens like him that have passed through my town. OK most don’t have the arson, plenty have violence along with drink / drug problems.

    Forget the simple solutions, they help a minority who don’t need a lot of help. They don’t help the majority who have been homeless a while.

  18. Martin

    Very interesting thanks. Depressing but interesting.

    Any experience with the Spice problem? It seems to be becoming more prevalent in the streets (and prisons) bit don’t know how it compares on difficulty to treat to other common street drugs.

  19. @ Martin
    Some of us think that more housing will do a tiny bit to help as a slightly-more-than-adequate supply of housing will mean those who lose a job and/or come to London looking for a job are less likely to become homeless and start on a downward spiral. We don’t claim it is a complete solution, just that it will make things a bit less bad.

  20. There are currently two rough sleepers in my town, and both refuse all offers of assistance from any agency. So their cardboard palisades, smelly sleeping bags, carrier bags of junk and their general detritus litter two arches on the market square’s focal building and spill out onto the pavement. The way they live is their choice; but do the rest of us have to tolerate it? Perhaps they could be rounded up each evening and locked in a small pound. Tolerance simply encourages them.

  21. Bloke in North Dorset

    If we didn’t have rough sleepers the likes of Shelter wouldn’t be able to bait and switch and more people would see the emperors lack of clothes.


    It’s not heartless to point out what’s really going on as Martin has, otherwise we throw a lot of money about and don’t fix the real problem. Which is how Governement wastes so much in the first place.

  22. C4 News Pre-Christmas sobfest week about homeless rough sleepers.

    Interviewed (Wed/Thur?) one chap who refused room/bed in hostel as – from experience – he didn’t trust others there as they stole from, assaulted (inc hint sex) each other.

    He felt safer rough sleeping.

    Surprised C4 News editor failed to censor out the off-message interview.

    Probably on youtube/c4news site.

  23. “If we didn’t have rough sleepers the likes of Shelter wouldn’t be able to bait and switch and more people would see the emperors lack of clothes.”

    There’s also the point that the likes of Shelter etc NEED there to be rough sleepers otherwise they are out of nice middle class office jobs………………

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