Last week, Crawley Open House, Crawley Police and Crawley Borough Council were running a stall encouraging ‘Diverted Giving’ in the High Street. Diverted Giving involves helping those who are in need on our streets by donating to those charities which are set up to support rough sleepers, rather than giving them the money or goods directly.
No, not everyone on the streets is an addict, but look at any set of figures on the subject and you can see substance misuse is certainly a widespread problem amongst rough sleepers. Often this misuse is an attempt to self-medicate, tackling some preexisting mental illness for which they have been unable to access support, but even where that isn’t the case I don’t think it’s hard to imagine that the difficulties of living on the street would make most of us consider turning to alcohol or narcotics as a source of some relief.
That being said, if we can offer people a way out of the cycle and on to a better life, don’t we have some obligation to provide it? Diverted Giving encourages rough sleepers to access support where it is available and enables homeless charities to have the resources they need to provide it.
The work these charities do to help provide support to those ‘in need’ is incredible, as a council we have been very happy to help fund them and will continue to do so, particularly as the need appears to be growing. In just the short time I was at the stall I saw desperate people come along to try to access help as the support they had been able to access from the Government was being cut back. It is deeply upsetting to see such desperation in our own community and we must do whatever we can to help fix the problem the Government is making. Unfortunately the task is great and I fear that, so long as the current Government is in office, those ‘in need’ will only grow greater in number and more dire in circumstances.