This is city’s big is­sue

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Your Views -

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

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