17 October 2016
OPINION by editor Patrick Phelvin
A city of fine flats and freezing tents
Recently I arrived early to open up the Echo‘s offices to find 2 homeless people blocking the door and having a violent row.
Both were under the influence of either drink or drugs and, although they moved out the way when I asked, it was a nasty situation.
Other businesses in the city centre have had much worse. Discarded needles and faeces are common problems, threats of violence are rare but have been reported.
In the midst of this we must not forget, though, that we are dealing with some of society’s most vulnerable people. Scratch the surface and tales of mental illness, broken relationships and substance abuse are behind most of the faces we see on our streets.
The Council is keen on developing long-term solutions – and is hoping to go beyond its statutory requirement to provide immediate shelter to homeless people once the temperature dips below freezing for 3 nights in a row.
But a deal to provide a building for a more urgent requirement has fallen through, and now the Echo, with its Give Me Shelter campaign, is calling on the city’s great and good to help out.
Perhaps there’s a disused warehouse that could be converted, an old block of University accommodation standing idle, or a church room that could be used?
I am sure that a quick solution to this must exist, and the fortunate can come up with an answer to the problems of the less lucky.
If we don’t, will be the city with smart restaurants, luxury penthouse flats and £9,000-a-year serviced student apartments for our elite, while poor people are dying in tents.
That’s not an Exeter I recognise or want to be a part of.