This is city’s big issue
Homelessness became Peterborough’s big issue (no pun intended) at the tailend of last year. From the city council’s self inflicted wounds of the St Michael’s Gate saga, which saw families turfed out of their homes to make way for homeless people, to the barmy idea to spend/ waste taxpayers’ money to patrol St Peter’s Arcade.
The arcade became a des res for some of the city’s homeless as it no doubt offers shelter from the worst of the winter weather.
The security guards had no power to move on people - only to advise them of ways to access help. Advice that it seems was declined.
The council simply has not achieved what it set out to... but has spent £8,000 of our money doing so.
It needs an urgent rethink if it is not to start 2017 in the same way it spent most of 2016 – stumbling from one crisis to the next.
We should have known this was not going to end well. This whole sorry saga began when the PT revealed the council was spending a million pounds housing homeless people in Travelodges. The cabinet member responsible Cllr Irene Walsh lamely suggested the Government’s strategy to solve the problem would work “maybe not in the short-term, but over a number of years’’.
This is a complex problem so I agree with Cllr Walsh that it can’t be solved overnight.
However, something, even if it is a sticking plas- ter, needs to be done to stop the short-term damage because it has the potential to do the city significant harm.
To an extent it is a problem that comes with the territory of being a bigger city. Interestingly, when folk were trumpeting the city’s exciting growth agenda there was nothing in the brochure about increased homelessness, creaking health services, traffic congestion and struggling schools
I took a walk through St Peter’s Arcade to see for my- self what was happening.
And despite my prior knowledge of the situation I was shocked at what I saw.
It was like a mini-shanty town with shabby belongings strewn across the arcade. It was a sight to shame the city and society as a whole and I’m not talking about the pair who allegedly got jiggy in the arcade.
The council is absolutely right to try to do something, but paying security guards to act as social workers is just ridiculous.
Two youngsters from Thorney have made a better and bigger difference to the problem. Brother and sister Maryam and Abdullah Qayyum raised £700 to buy Cold Survival Kits.
These kits include a sleeping bag, a rucksack, a hat, gloves and a scarf. They cost £30 each. I’ll do the math – the £8,000 spent on security guards could have bought 267 of these kits.
It might not make the problem go away but it seems a better idea than just waiting for “a number of years’’.
Maryam and Abdullah with the kits