Home / Press articles / Urgent strategy needed for homeless in Windsor

The homelessness epidemic has dominated the national press this week, with Windsor the focus, after the ill-considered and naïve words of Conservative council leader Simon Dudley. Now, whilst Cllr Dudley’s comments have served as a stimulus for a national debate, they unfortunately do nothing to help resolve the issue. In fact, they probably just make it harder to encourage the people who are homeless and beg to reach out to the local services – medical, local authority and charitable – that can help them move away from this life. Now as someone who has spent the past year supporting members of the homeless community in Windsor, I am really glad to see this issue is now becoming more high profile. However, I have serious concerns with the ethical judgment of much of the reporting that has taken place and serious concerns with the lack of “executive action” from the Conservative party against Simon Dudley, for his derogatory and unhelpful remarks.

Homeless people, and the “semi-homeless” (those who are homed but still beg in order to survive) are, by their very position, vulnerable people. Facing the elements almost 24 hours a day, sometimes for many months or years at a time, many have unresolved mental health issues; some as a result of living on the streets and some whose mental health crisis was the catalyst for them ending up there. Now whilst the media attention has got people talking about this issue, not all of it has been constructive and I feel as though the local and international press are not adequately considering the mental health impact of this attention.

Martin & Michael

Martin & Michael • Photo credit Phil Donnelly: phil@onvibe.co.uk

My homeless friend Martin Allen, for example, has been approached and interviewed over 10 times this past week. Accommodating as he is, he willingly gave these interviews to television crews from Japan, Canada and the UK. But do these film crews consider the emotional and psychological impact of the increased attention on Martin and of his having to re-tell his story of downfall? As a BA Television Production graduate, I have often been tempted to make a film highlighting the plight of these people. However, having worked closely with Murphy James and the Windsor Homeless Project, I have concluded that it is not responsible or in the best interests of these people to film them. Whilst I think it’s vitally important for the homeless community to have a voice, there is a right way and a wrong way. And jumping on a train from London and chucking a film camera in the face of a potentially unwell and vulnerable person is, in my eyes, the wrong way.

We all want the same thing – no homeless people on the streets of Windsor (or anywhere across the UK for that matter.) It is evident, however, that what is being done by the council thus far is completely inadequate. If we are to resolve this issue we need a radical rethink into the strategies currently in place, both in prevention and in response to homelessness. Strategies that ought to include practical measures like a local night shelter, improved drug and alcohol rehabilitation services and, probably most importantly, improved mental health care services.

Michael Boyle

Windsor Observer | January 19, 2018


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