“How can we ignore them? Do we care at all?”

This letter to The Star is fromValerie Brock, Sheffield, S10

I was born in Sheffield over 80 years ago and have vivid memories of the war and post-war years here. Everyone helped each other then - there was such a community spirit.

In all my life, and in other places I have lived, I have never witnessed the heartbreaking sight of beggars on our streets, nor those attempting to sleep there. Last evening, walking along a local street, I saw a young lady sitting on the pavement begging. It was a chilly evening, almost dark and beginning to rain. I would have stopped but a man was talking to her and I assumed he was offering help.

When I reached my home the girl was still very much on my mind, especially when I entered my warm dry lounge where I switched on the television. Panorama was on and the subject of the homeless was being examined. It seems that there are men prowling the streets, picking up young women and offering them shelter for the night in exchange for sex and that this practice is widespread. Of all street sleepers, it would seem that young females are the most vulnerable, but men too are liable to be attacked by drunken youths and are often to be seen with blood on their faces. Indeed, all those in such reduced circumstances are in need of our help.

How to help them? We have free food and soup kitchens available, but the need for night shelters seems to be the most pressing. We are not yet a third world country, so I ask the question; "Are we going to allow our fellow human beings to live and even die on our streets as they do in some other lands?". We do not have the climate to allow them to stay alive in that condition for very long. We have to face the fact that there are those dying on our streets already. How can we ignore them? Do we care at all?