Letter: “Homelessness is not always a lifestyle choice”

I was interested to read your article on the proposals for the former Beales site.

The opposition to the plans currently before the board may have merit.

There is, however, a severe nationwide housing shortage. New houses are needed. The important question is at what price.

With just a little imagination, there are plenty of ways to begin to alleviate the problem without ravaging an already dying downtown, further depriving it of the businesses large and small that are its oxygen.

An important point was raised in your article (28 November) by John Green (Dorset Police).

He raised the possibility that an apartment development could encourage homelessness.

As a homeless person myself with over 20 years of experience, I would personally refute the argument that this is a significant problem. Effective entry systems and, more importantly, resident discipline would mitigate any potentially relatively small and insignificant risk.

However, Mr. Green’s comment perhaps invites a real conversation about the city’s homeless community and how their interests and those of the wider community could be better served.

If we can create a situation where the homeless are perceived, rightly or wrongly, as a nuisance and a threat, that must be a plus for all of us.

My fear, and the one I suspect in many people I have spoken to, is that the homelessness “problem” continues to get worse given the current economic situation.

Remember it’s not just the tired old faces you see on the streets. Homelessness is a problem in disguise.

There are many more couch surfing – hanging out with friends, family and relatives.

There are excellent provisions for the homeless in the city.

Many people and organizations are doing invaluable work.

It would be odious to name one in particular – they know who they are and they get my thanks.

However, the fact remains that, unfortunately, more is needed.

Homelessness is not always a lifestyle choice.

Many of us have arrived on the streets for a multitude of reasons that are often beyond our control.

There are more and more homeless people who have many problems that deserve our help and support.

The few bad eggs that often stick in our minds for all the wrong reasons should not be allowed to create a barrier to the goodwill and desire to create a better environment for all of us.

Any effective and successful attempt to reduce the problems of homelessness requires the active participation not only of the local council, but also of residents, individual councillors, churches and other organisations.

We will not solve the problem overnight. I am not convinced that there is only one solution because there are as many reasons for homelessness as there are homelessness.

We can only envision and implement some possible solutions that are not just pretending to resolve the crisis on our streets, but are actively beginning to do so.

The challenge for all of us now is to start a positive conversation involving everyone I have already mentioned.

Many people will have good practical ideas which, with a little imagination and at little cost, could be easily and quickly implemented.

Putting all the homeless against a wall and shooting at us is not an option – personally I would oppose it!

But, seriously, let’s talk about it.

The impossible doesn’t always have to be impossible.

Patrick Rigg

Homeless, Bournemouth

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