Answering Britain First’s election lies about homeless soldiers

Matthew Collins - 23 04 16
Golding: Cashing in on the dead and homeless

Golding: Cashing in on the dead and homeless

So Paul Golding has published his, yes his manifesto (not Britain First as he describes it as “My 8 point plan for London!”) Before I go any further with this demolition of Mr Golding’s claims, I need to declare an interest; I have worked with people on the streets of the capital for over 20 years, day in day out. I am not making this intervention lightly.

So why am I exercised to write this blog for Hope not hate? Well point 5 of Mr Golding’s manifesto makes an outlandish and wholly misleading promise to “House London’s 3,000 homeless veterans”.

Lies, lies , lies and impossibilities

Lies, lies , lies and impossibilities

Are there really 3,000 homeless veterans on our streets, in London, today? Well, the “facts” quoted by Golding appear to come from an article on LBC aired on the 23rd January 2013. Three years old, these figures were wrong then and they are wrong now. How do I know? Well, the Greater London Assembly commissioned St Mungo’s (a major rough sleepers charity) to manage a reporting and recording system called CHAIN. This system records real time intervention from the capital’s streets by outreach workers who engage with those sleeping out day and night seven days a week with supported input by the capital’ss many homeless day centres. Every intervention is recorded.

In the year 2014-15, the last completed year for which figures are available, London had 7581 people sleeping rough on its streets. The vast majority of these spent just one (67%) or fewer than five nights out (13%). Indeed we are talking about around 20% of those seen out intermittently or consistently over the year. These figures disguise the fact that the majority of people transition in and out of accommodation, so actually those permanently living on the streets is really relatively small.

So….what about this figure of 3,000? Well firstly it is wrong. Very wrong. The figures available from CHAIN, show that those sleeping out during the 2014-15 period who had a forces background was 450. I have avoided using the word “just” as it is still horrendous. This accounts for 6% of the headline figure, but this only means seen out and not those actually living on the streets, as it might be their first and last night out.

So, Golding’s appropriation of the figure 3,000 is wrong. The empirical figure of 450 right. This does not actually mean 450 British forces personnel, either. Paul Golding and co are showing an unexpectedly warm heart because the breakdown of those on the streets with a forces background shows 299 of those seen out were people whose forces experience was for other countries, European and worldwide.

Evidence shows that 151 people from a British forces background slept out, with all the caveats above, and it is likely that circa 20 people a night sleeping rough in London who have a British forces background. Those that live on the streets will have had many, and I mean many, options offered them by SSAFA (the acronym for Soldiers, Sailors, Air Force & Army) Veterans Aid and Help For Heroes absolutely superb services – as well as the St Mungo’s, Thamesreach and CRI outreach teams. The obscene claim by Britain First is a cruel and wholly unwarranted sleight to those dedicated charities. Of course, it is not the first time that Golding has run into trouble with forces’ charities or abused the lives or memory of people connected to the armed forces.

He really doesn't give a toss

He really doesn’t give a toss

Those that refuse services, sadly, are often those who are substance dependent or have enduring mental health issues and these problems are not about housing but about finding the triggers to help these veterans accept the service on offer to them.

So may I respectfully ask Paul Golding and Co to amend their manifesto to “house the 20 people out who have a forces background but refuse assistance”? That isn’t so dramatic but it is much nearer the truth.


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