It is safe to say that homelessness in Portsmouth is an issue that does need to be addressed. We all see it every day, either on Guildhall or on Albert Road. Many factors can lead people to become homeless, either it being through addiction, mental health or just plain bad luck in a society that is still feeling the effects of the financial crisis of 2009. The Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) is a multi-agency database that records information about rough sleepers and the wider street population in London. CHAIN created an annual report for the period of 2014/15 to demonstrate the support needed by rough sleepers.
As information like that is not widely available in Portsmouth, it is hard to pinpoint what sort of support homeless people should receive by the city, and this could, arguably, be a reason why the problem seems to be getting worst in Portsmouth.
Pure FM writes this in response to the recent campaign started by University of Portsmouth politics student Luke Buckland, who is attempting to provide a voice for homeless people in the city by supporting them in their struggles. Pure FM reached out to Luke to provide some insight into his campaign, Luke wrote this for us;
“Finding out that a disproportionate number of rough sleepers have mental health issues, helping rough sleepers seems to me to be one way of improving mental health in society. Leaders are conflating rough sleepers with crime, which if anything is going to isolate people on the streets from society further. I want to remind you that people may or may not have ended up where they are because of decisions they have made. But when it comes down to it, we all make mistakes and we all deserve to be treated like the human beings that we are. I am spending time with people who are on the street and listening to what they have to say. What I hope to achieve is raise these issues with decision-makers, and encouraging them to take it seriously.”
“Homes Not Handcuffs” is the name of the campaign that Luke has started in order to provide support for the homeless in Portsmouth. He argues that the Police, rather than assisting them by directing them to the relevant services in Portsmouth that provide help, they instead criminalise them by moving them along, or in worst cases even arrest them. In this country, the Vagrancy Act 1824 makes it illegal for people to sleep on the streets and to beg. While usage of the statute has been seemingly phased out over the years, it is still a legally binding law which has been used by Police forces, particularly the Metropolitan Police, in response to the growing numbers of homeless people in the country. Charities such as Crisis and Centrepoint exist in order to provide services to the homeless, however, Luke said in a Portsmouth News article that “I am interested in giving homeless people a voice because I don’t think they are getting one at the moment. They have charities like Crisis and Centrepoint, which can speak for them, but a lot of homeless people aren’t engaging with those services so I don’t think they are being represented.”
Luke’s campaign will hopefully bring to light the issue of homelessness to a wider audience. Without a service like CHAIN in Portsmouth, we are unable to get full data about homelessness in the city and its surrounding areas. With Michael Lane recently being elected to be Police and Crime Commissioner in Hampshire. Hopefully he will be able to aid in trying to help the homeless in Portsmouth. In regards to Luke Buckland, we at Pure FM wish him all the best with his campaign.
Head of News | Pure FM
Additional material written by Luke Buckland
Chart retrieved from http://data.london.gov.uk/dataset/chain-reports
Image retrieved from http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/blanket-and-soup-for-the-homeless