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Absolutely. We have to segment the homeless as much as we can. The Prime Minister has made an extraordinary commitment to end street homelessness within 10 years, but if we are really serious about solving the problem, we have to see people as individuals. We have to differentiate between different groups. We have to accept that some people have made a lifestyle choice. We have to ask whether the large number of foreign nationals really are here looking for work. We have to be honest and have the courage to look at whether the provision of services to homeless people is enabling able-bodied people to live on the streets, where they quickly get into a whole other load of difficulties.
We also need to think about whether public kindness is enabling addiction. The guy I slept next to outside the McDonald’s goods-in entrance got £30 on the Sunday night from kind members of the public, but that was enabling his addiction. Indeed, one of the homeless workers told me after I had finished making the programme that someone they looked after who was a heroin addict and was in a wheelchair, having lost a leg, firmly believed that if the public had not been so kind to him, he would have sought treatment a lot earlier, but he was able to continue with his addiction because of that kindness from the public.
We also need to accept that we cannot add to our population year after year and not build new homes and not expect that to have some knock-on effect on the people at the very bottom. We also have to accept the impact of the cost of housing. I was sleeping in the doorway of a shop on Tottenham Court Road, and two or three of the people there were actually going off to work, but they slept there because they would rather not and probably could not afford to spend £1,000 a month on housing. We need to look at whether, by lumping everyone together, we are making it harder for people who are in the direst need. Most of all, in this welfare state of ours, we need to try to rescue the people at the very bottom from roaming the streets of our cities.
I am making a brief speech because I had a Westminster Hall debate on this subject recently, and others wish to speak. We need to look at the root causes of homelessness, look at each individual and rapidly intervene when they need it, for the mentally ill and the drug addicted, otherwise we will get nowhere.