Turning rough sleepers into responsible citizens
On the eve of the twenty-first century, it is a scandal that there are still people sleeping rough on our streets. This is not a situation we can continue to tolerate in a modern and civil society. These were the words of Tony Blair in his foreword to the policy document Rough Sleeping, The Government’s Strategy. In this the Government set out the ‘tough but achievable target of reducing rough sleeping in England by at least two thirds by 2002’. To achieve this target, the Rough Sleepers Unit (RSU) was established and a strategy was set out. In 1999, inspired by this energetic approach, the councilwoman for homelessness in Amsterdam, Guusje ter Horst, stated that from 2000 no-one in Amsterdam would ever again have to sleep rough against their will. In this article we discuss some of the implications of the 2000 target in Central London, focusing on the balance in the British government’s approach between options and sanctions. We argue that this balance could be improved if more attention was paid to the views of rough sleepers themselves. On this point, Britain could learn something from the Netherlands. But the learning process is two-way: the RSU has something to offer to the Netherlands, in terms of the cohesive approach for which both countries are aiming, but which is better developed in Britain.
|Published in||Renewal. A journal of social democracy|
|Year and volume||9 2/3|