Some addicts can’t be “fixed” or “cured.” Provide hostels and wet houses for them. Lay off the sanctimony

Time to share a few observations on that sanctimonious school of thought which says a) people shouldn’t give money to street homelessness people because they’ll buy booze and b) that the money should instead go to charities which “help” street drinkers.

I LOATHE that line. It implies that street homeless people aren’t entitled to the autonomy everyone else enjoys when it comes to spending/wasting money. It also implies that people who won’t/can’t stop using should be sidelined.

Which they must not be.

Let’s have a story:

Here is a picture I took recently of James, 50.

James is from Oldham. I met James in September last year. Since then, we’ve had lunch and played pool on the free table at the Ark in Oldham every month or so. I spoke to James last night. We’ll meet up again on Friday.

James has been in and out of street homelessness for years. I’m guessing that the drinking has everything to do with that. We’ve talked about it. In the time I’ve known him, James has been been banned from malls and various soup kitchens for aggro when pissed. When I saw James at the end of September, he was street homeless again. He’d just been turfed out of the temporary accommodation he’d lived in for several months:

“Don’t know what happened. The landlord come round last week and told us all to get out.”

Recently, James took a thrashing, as you can see. I met him at a Sally army lunch the day after it happened. He still had blood on his clothes. He had two black eyes, bruises down both sides of his face, a deep slash across his nose and a burn on his scalp where his head had been set alight for some reason. He wouldn’t show me the burn. He kept pulling his hat down.

“They told me it [the burn] is the shape of Ireland,” James said.

He also said, “I’m sick of people talking about it.”

Often, people don’t want to talk about it. I suppose that’s because this kind of beating is par for the course. Going into the details isn’t done. People must still live with each other, or among each other.

I’ve seen James with black eyes before. Vance, 44, who I also see a lot of, turned up to the Ark one day with scratches running down from his eyes like scabbed-up stigmata.

“Fuckers threw a cat at me,” Vance laughed when I asked about the scratches. “If I find that cat, I’m going to fucking eat it.”

J, another bloke in the group, said James was getting on his nerves the night that James was hit. James was sofa-surfing at Vance’s council flat at the time (Vance got the flat in 2016 after years of street homelessness and James often stays). J came round to watch a film. James didn’t care for the film:

Said J:

“He [James] moaned about the film… and I told him to drop it, but no, he wouldn’t drop it. That night, he decided to keep opening his gob. I was trying to watch a film. Next thing you know, I give him two slaps…and then the other one took him outside and put a spray on him…[to light].”


“I’m thinking of going back to prison soon. I’m just sick of the arseholes [on the street]… I’ll stick me friggin’ ends in a… Forest Bank…or Strangeways, I’m not arsed.”


Anyway – that was the end of that, until next time.

Which is the point. There will be a next time. Might be happening as we speak. Some things don’t change in some lives. Some things can’t change in some lives, at least until people are ready to change them. Not everybody gets to that point.

I do know this. People can’t be threatened, or coerced, into sobriety. Asked to choose between sobriety and “help”, or drink and beatings, some people choose drink and beatings. I know this, because I see it. People still require support, though. They also require a society which is open to ideas of unconditional support. People need hostels and wet houses to stay in even when they’re pissed and/or spiced out of their minds. They need places to go where no questions are asked. Otherwise, they stay where they are. Doesn’t matter how society preaches.

15 thoughts on “Some addicts can’t be “fixed” or “cured.” Provide hostels and wet houses for them. Lay off the sanctimony

  1. Regarding the assaults on James and people in his situation, I am reminded of a Disability News Service posting, Portraying disabled people as ‘parasites’ could lead to ‘violence and killings’, says UN chair:

    “Disabled people could be at risk of violence, and even ‘killings and euthanasia’, because of their portrayal by the UK government and media as ‘parasites’ who live on benefits, according to unpublished comments by the chair of a UN committee.

    “Theresia Degener, who chairs the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, warns in the interview that such portrayals of disabled people are ‘very, very dangerous’.”

    Regarding mainstream people’s dismissal of people with addiction problems, I am reminded of a comment I recently saw on a youtube posting of Joan Baez’ recording of Phil Ochs’ song, ‘There But For Fortune’. The commenter said that “Baez’ lovely voice was ruined by sentimental left wing twaddle,” or words to that effect. I believe that such commenters are sentimentally far too attached to their comparative privilege.

    Also regarding such comments about ‘sentimental left-wing twaddle’, I believe it’s important to bear in mind the fact that the song was written by Phil Ochs who had majored in journalism at university and left that course to put his stories into song form; and though an atheist or agnostic of Jewish origin, he based the song around the idea of ‘God’s Grace’.

    Referring back to the UN Disability Committee chair’s comments about UK Government preparing the way for hate crime, I would describe jobcentre closures and much of the ‘welfare reform’ agenda as corporate hate crime made tangible. This is well brought home in a youtube video by Shootroot that I have just been blessed with permission to post to Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group’s Kwug Blog: Save Our Job Centres — a 1 minute 45 seconds video by Shootroot.

    In that video a nurse who appeared at the demonstration outside Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) HQ says that she visited a jobcentre a few days previously in support of a very vulnerable person who had slit his wrists after being sanctioned, and spoke to a volunteer there. The volunteer said that her skills as a psychotherapist were more vitally required there than the Information Technology skills that she had volunteered to help claimants with.

    The nurse who told that story also pointed out that the DWP intends to shut 102 jobcentres in just six months, 16 of those in London. Another protector of jobcentres pointed out that nearly all jobcentre users objected to the closures, but the DWP insisted that those closures must happen without a public consultation.

    It has seemed to me that at least as far back as Labour’s 2008 ‘welfare reform’ Green Paper [public consultation, sic] the only views the DWP seem to have any heed for — eg, to appeal to the agendas of — are the privatisers of public services. In that sense, the ‘key decision makers” prejudices overrule the true public good to the point of contempt for vulnerable people.

    • I would add that I reckon being able to relate to an addict requires special skills, and it seems to me that it can be an easy cop-out for people lacking such skills and maybe too cosseted, to regard the addicts they cannot currently relate to as ‘a dead loss’.

      Meanwhile it seems to me to be in the financially vested interests of ‘the financial services industry’ to want to destroy the welfare state, while addicts lacking disposable income are easy for the companies that want to destroy the welfare state, to write off as ‘not our kind of people’.

      Meanwhile, too, there are people who marvel that with all the let-downs I have had from the State, that I have not taken to booze, etc. While I have been seriously let down by those supposed to help me, I’d say that two things have stopped me from ‘succumbing to substance abuse’.

      One is that I have been blessed with meetings with people who helped me regard myself more healthily than the ‘loser’ my scapegoatist schoolday peers and early working life co-workers left me feeling like when I gave up salaried employment on health grounds in 1977 with the prospect of a vocational training that never materialised in the ways I was led to believe it should.

      The other has been the realisation that skills I developed in verbal expression, say, that may not have found me waged work, did help me console myself and reach out to likeminded others in resolving to make the world a better place. Reading of the Social Model of Disability years ago helped me enormously in understanding that a disablist world is fucked up but can be improved; and I’m not ‘defective from birth’. As humanistic astrologer Alexander Ruperti said, many people are more damaged by an unhelpful interpretation of life events rather than by those events themselves.

      • Universal Credit is built round that same thesis: poverty is the fault of the individual, rather than the completely predictable fallout in a world where distribution is not equal.

        • The ‘poverty is the fault of the individual’ thesis you are citing is modelled upon the idea that already financially wealthy people with impairments were positive role models. Hence David Freud’s adoption of the so-called ‘biopsycho-social model of disability’ that was adopted and adapted by dodgy American health insurance company Unum as advisers to UK government on ‘welfare reform’.

          Actually, my early life misinterpretation of my circumstances — imbibed from scapegoating peers at school and early work experience — was that I was defective and should thus be punished by self-recrimination and denial of good things for my being born with an impairment.

          The Social Model of Disability helped me see that society needed to be changed in order to accommodate disadvantaged people, that disability was a by-product of physical, economic and social barriers.

          Universal Credit is actually very different. Universal Credit is about total destruction of bargaining power in the name of ‘incentivising’ poor people to work without human rights for capital, the wealthy. Universal Credit is ‘sink or swim’ while subjecting poor people to ever-increasing structural barriers, landing them/us in greater debt to drown us in. As I have argued elsewhere, it is an instrument of a state-run modern slavery gangmaster (the DWP).

          The so-called-Universal Credit offers debt instead of support. It can be read as a form of institutionalised hate crime against disadvantaged people.

          Alongside ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ (Work will make you free), the Nazis reportedly had a program of Extermination through labour. Taken outside of a concentration camp setting, Universal Credit is covertly designed to destroy disadvantaged people not only through overwork, but also through debt, starvation and homelessness.

          The Disability Minister Penny Mordaunt and her kind may deny that it is designed to be so, but how many foodbank friends have they? For them, the victims of their policies never really existed as fully human in the first place, and one of the pitfalls of modern government is the increasing distance between ‘key decision makers’ and those decided upon.

          Think of Stanley Milgrams’ Experiment on detached torturers, and also Euripides/Jean-Paul Sartre’s, “Those who give the order seldom see the mess it makes.”

  2. Essentially nothing is going to be done for people like James, because they have just been written-off by a system which sees them as a burden on the taxpayer.
    Deliberate neglect is now the outcome for the ‘less deserving’.

  3. Salutations to you all !
    I haven’t been around for a few hundred years. Not since I did the book with that Arab chap, what was his name… Mormon ? No sorry, that was one of my colleagues. Anyway, I just came down from the celestial spheres to give the Heavenly Verdict on Universal Credit.
    This ungodly roll-out has got to stop Mr.Gauke. ( And I have to say the Boss is not very happy with it either, though He tries to avoid politics ).
    It would take a miracle for it to work, and frankly those are in short supply these days. The whole thing is going to end in disaster, and thats speaking as someone who saw Noah climbing into his boat with all the animals and the dinosaurs.
    But now I am summoned back on high, so farewell.
    And remember, usury is still a sin, even if you call it a Bank.

  4. The government should have centres away from the general population for people like James to live in, these would be provide free housing, food, beer, tobacco, tv, etc – but no money as they have everything they need.
    With the only proviso they stay in the centre / grounds at all times.
    They would be happy and safe.
    And normal people would not have to bother with them on the streets, parks,etc
    Nor be unlucky enough to have them as neighbours or even house sharers .
    Worth a try.

    Anyone got opinion on this new GOV.UK Verify ? (or a heads up link).
    Seems the jobcentres are keen to get existing claimants signed up now, not just new ones.
    Someone I know had to join, they kept refusing to verify him, instead asking for more and more info. Finally after he had told them details of his passport, Drivers licence, bank ,doctor, school etc etc etc , they verified him .
    I that what it is ? an easy way for the government to get everything about a person in one file ?
    Some existing long term claimants have very little ID, perhaps they want to inconvenience them with this too.

  5. Kate, don’t let the Eddie Booths of this world get you down. That remark about you going back to New Zealand was not only racist, but well worthy of the idiot who made it. Everyone who has read your blog over the past few years has seen for themselves your sympathetic and compassionate work amongst some of the most desperate and disadvantaged people in society.
    This is vital work, so don’t go back to NZ Kate, these people need you now more than ever. The internet needs its Kiwi Queen of welfare activism, who won’t take no for an answer.
    And the decent, caring people in British society, who are appalled by some of things this government has done in their name, they need you too.

    • Cheers John! – that’s a great comment and appreciated. Tbh the Eddies don’t get me down at all & I think Mr Booth was being an online twat for an evening. God knows we see a few of them 🙂 On we go.

  6. Pingback: A rise in the number of rough sleepers? Bet those shocking numbers don’t show the half of it. Look at these two guys. | Kate Belgrave

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