Homeless Not Brainless: Leicester thinks homeless people can’t fill in surveys

From Visions of Inequality by Ineke Poultney at Inkyworld:

You are very lucky to be reading this blog post. This is for two reasons. Firstly, I have not acted on my first thoughts regarding the stupidity which caused this blog post to be typed in the first place (put it this way – I could have ended up in a Police Station on at least one charge if I had acted on them) – and secondly as a direct result of someone repeatedly hitting one of my triggers.

There are times when I feel that my so-called “Sideways” view of life is preferable to the “Normal” view of it. You may think I am a total oddball after reading some of my posts but I try to treat you with respect at all times. All in all, I am reasonably harmless – unless severely provoked.

If you really want to get me angry you only have to do one of two things – you can either bully someone or you can patronise them. The stage of incandescent rage is reached when someone combines the two. Especially if the victim of the bullying patronisation is someone you are supposed to be helping to get themselves out of a situation which is not necessarily of their own making.

Just when I thought Leicester City Council’s opinion of Homeless People had hit rock bottom I found cause to reconsider my opinion – downwards again.

There are not that many groups of “Professional Carers” who would get away with treating their Clients/Patient/Residents like complete idiots when they want the Client’s opinions whilst leaving them to fend for themselves when the Client wanted or – more precisely – needed help. I think most hospitals, Counselling services, etc, have rules preventing that.

I know that Leicester City Council are not “Profession Carers” in the true sense of the word but they do have a responsibility towards those who they are supposed to serve – whether or not they have a roof over their heads at that particular moment. I think the proper term is “Duty of Care”?

The City Council will not provide you with help and assistance when you claim Housing Benefit, apply for Housing, etc. As in when you actually need it. I have spoken to a lady who has a Law Degree and she found the application process for Housing Benefit complicated and stressful.

However, the City Council will go out of their way to provide you with help to fill in one of their questionnaires which should give your opinion. The reality being – if you accept their help your opinion will go straight out of the window.

The questions on the survey are so basic that the only reason someone would need anybody’s help in answering them would be because they had severe Learning Difficulties or didn’t speak English.

Asking someone why they became homeless is bad enough. Questioning them on what could stop them being homeless is bordering on the patronising. Suggesting that they may visit a Food Bank for the “atmosphere” is downright insulting. (Oh – and before you suggest I am having one of my “Surreal” experiences – I seriously wish I was. The question about visiting Food Banks for the “atmosphere” was part of a multiple choice question on this survey – which I saw in black and white.)

To me that sounds like asking me if I found attending my English Grandma’s funeral a fun and exciting experience. Insulting and disrespectful in the extreme.

I can think of several ways in which to find out the opinions of homeless people about the services they encounter – and why they use them – which do not assume that the homeless person lost their intelligence at the same time as losing their home.

This has reminded me of a conversation I had with an ex-heroin user a few years ago. He shocked me when he thanked me for not judging him when he had admitted to myself and another friend about his past. As far as I could tell he was an intelligent man who had had a problem. He had managed to educate me about heroin and its effects just by telling me about his experiences. In fact, even after he had told me about his past I felt safe enough to talk to him in private in a corner of a dark field in a campsite. I can think of quite a few “friends” of mine (some of whom are very well respected in certain circles) who I wish I could feel as safe with as I felt with him.

If you want to help people out of homelessness you need to start by giving them their self-respect back. This means allowing them to speak for themselves and listening to their opinions with an open mind. You never know – they may have letters after their name – they may have served their country but fallen on very hard times. They may be finding it very hard to keep themself together and find the strength to go on.

Homeless people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect in the same way that the people who are making decisions which affect their future would demand


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