Last week I read a story that was tragic in its comedy, yet at the same time gives us all a warning about what might happen if services for homeless men and women are cut back.
A homeless man in Eastbourne, who has an anti-social behaviour order forbidding him from drinking in public, phoned the police to say that he had deliberately breached his ASBO so he would be arrested and thereby get a bed for the night. When the police arrived he had not opened the can of beer he was holding, and was therefore told he could not be arrested. He then opened the can and asked: “Now can you arrest me?” It was his 12th ASBO breach since May. He achieved his objective as he was put in a cell overnight for this latest breach.
What a sad state of affairs that someone has to commit an offence in order to get accommodation. And what a waste of public funds that this state of affairs exists. The judge in the case, Deputy District Judge Nigel Dean said: “He is doing it at great cost to the public, breaching his ASBO and clearly has no regard to appearing in court.”
What we need in all seaside towns is specialist accommodation for homeless people (as we have in Brighton and Hove) where those with alcohol or drug problems can be encouraged, with some carrot and some stick, to address their addictions. In the long term, it makes economic sense and would relieve pressure on the police, criminal justice system and health services.