Two things I have repeated several times in my blogs are that I do not support any particular political party and homelessness is an important issue that I care and want to do something about. When I recently bumped into and had an impromptu conversation with one of my local Labour councillor friends, who graciously commended some the work I was involved in concerning the homeless, I pointed out to him that he also had an important part to play and that some of the underlying issues we are presently facing lend themselves, partly at least, to a political solution and that he needed to hang in there in order to make that necessary difference.
I am a great believer in giving credit where credit is due on one hand and a rollicking if that happens to be applicable on the other, without fear or favour. Regarding the credit bit, almost all the current crop of my town’s Labour councillors have done something significant to help the homeless recently and that is just what I know about. One volunteers at one of our night shelters and food banks; another has gone out with us when we engaged with the homeless on the street; another has addressed and talked with members of the SHAN meeting I happen to chair; and yet another has consulted with us regarding homeless issues. While I know a number of folk who lean toward conservatism when it comes to politics who have a heart for the homeless (some say I am an example), sadly, despite making overtures to engage, little of the cooperation mentioned above happened under the previous Conservative administration.
Politics is a strange and sometimes murky business; one where compromise is often a necessity, yet where it is possible to make a difference. It is why I have a grudging admiration for community activists that become involved in politics because they want to address the issues that have become evident in their activism, and will always support politicians whatever their label who diligently go about their task with sincerity, although for me and where I feel my calling lies, whilst I am political, at least with a small ‘p’, my focus is religion because what is needed for both the homeless and the not homeless is the change in heart which true religion is able to effect, and I feel constrained to deliver such a message.
But off the top of my head and looking back at some of the issues in recent years where a political solution would have helped, without (I hope) coming down in favour of one or other of the political parties, I would respectfully submit the following are issues that impact on the homeless and it is where politicians can make a signifcant difference, sometimes at local level but more often at national level.
- Understanding the issues and not living in cloud cuckoo land
- Providing services to help the homeless in a climate of austerity
- Partnering with grassroots organisations that help the homeless
- In effecting welfare reform (which is needed), considering the impact this has on the homeless
- Providing robust and compassionate responses to those rough sleepers that frequent our town centres
- Taking to task dodgy landlords
- Taking over empty buildings
- Building more homes, and affordable ones at that
- Encouraging a healthy private sector and social housing paradigm
- Addressing once and for all the issue of destitute asylum seekers
As for me, having noted the above and got it off my chest, I get on with trying to help the homeless and seeking to carry out the great command of loving my neighbour as the good book says we must. I will happily work with politicians of all flavours to achieve this end.