Letter: How can we ignore street sleepers?

This letter sent to the Star was written by Valerie Brock, Sheffield, S10

By The Newsroom
Monday, 9th September 2019, 10:54 am
Updated Friday, 13th September 2019, 7:50 am

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 and there was a great community spirit. In all my life and in other places I have lived, I have never witnessed the heart-breaking sight of beggars on our streets, or those attempting to sleep there.

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Last evening, walking along a street in my locality, 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 my television. The programme 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, and 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? In this country, 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 just ignore them? Do we care at all?