Westminster Council, never known for grand philanthropic gestures, is now leading calls for a curb on soup runs and food distribution to the homeless.
The argument, which is supported by no less than homeless champion John Bird, is that easy access to food will only proliferate homelessness, as it removes some of the spur to find work and shelter. It is also true that there are some who have accommodation but still seek to cash in on the idea of free grub. And there is an admission of appalling NIMBYism – councillors are worried about the handout schemes “disturbing and "impacting" on the local community”, for which the subtext plainly reads, ‘remove the food and the problem will go away’. Simple - no more nasty needy tramps to make us feel uncomfortable and guilty: end of problem.
Well, Londonist is lucky enough not to be homeless, and is thus really not qualified to make the ultimate pronouncement on the big issue…but this sounds like a load of sanctimonious hogwash (just love that expression) to us.
Clearly if you give the homeless state of the art sleeping bags, designer hand-me-downs and gourmet sarnies, the shallower amongst them may think twice before swapping itinerant ‘luxury’ for a mediocre hostel. But simple hot soup for rough sleepers is pretty much essential, and its denial is, frankly, cruel and immoral. Not only does it nourish and warm, but it gives the homeless a very brief interface with ‘normality’, and a chance to chat with those who could help them.
Perhaps Westminster council would like to spend a soupless winter’s night on the pavement before making this crass idea legislation.
Piccie courtesy of Somaya’s flickr stream.