A homelessness campaigner’s bid to clarify who are “genuinely homeless” people in Kidderminster by issuing them with photo ID cards has sparked a vigorous debate.
Dave Griffin, who recently won an award from Kidderminster Town Council for his community work and owns entertainment company Quads n Castles, announced his plan to issue ID cards to those who he deemed “genuine homeless” so people knew who to help and who to ignore.
He announced his plan on popular Facebook group Kidderminster Matters, which has more than 16,000 active users, triggering a debate about the rights and wrongs of the idea.
A screenshot of Mr Griffin’s original post reads:
The post sparked a range of opinions, from those who thought it was a “brilliant idea” to others who questioned its legality, morality and motivation.
Said one Facebook comment: “I’m sorry but this post has bothered me all afternoon. Don’t you think it is demeaning to label people in this way? Is it really acceptable to give someone a badge and an identity number to show they are “genuinely homeless”?”
Another said: “Labelling someone with an identity card as a means of determining whether they are genuinely homeless is demeaning! I’m not sure it’s legal either!”
“If I were homeless I truly do not think I’d want to wear a ‘Dave’s permission to beg’ card. If you can, and are willing to help, surely that’s all that’s required,” added another objector.
But others supported Mr Griffin’s plan: “I think it’s a brilliant idea, stops the frauds out there spoiling for the genuine people.”
Another: “Surely if you want to help people you deserve to know that they are genuinely homeless and not just some scrounging jobless idiot. I think it’s a great idea myself.”
“Brilliant idea. Like to help but never sure if being taken for a mug!!”
“Stop being against something just because your mind says every good idea has its negatives!” said another in response to critics of the idea.
Mr Griffin added: “When you see what i see and the guy in town begging money to put fuel in his 2010 plate white BMW then i see friends of mine from school days shivering with nothing I wanted to come up with an idea so this guy doesn’t get extra help and the worse off get some help.”
Mr Griffin, who has unofficially helped homeless people for over a year by asking for donations and goods, including clothing, sleeping bags and tents, and distributing them to rough sleepers around the district, at his own expense, is planning to set up a charity under the name of his new organisation, called HELP.
He said: “I thought I would be in a good position to decide (who is genuinely homeless) and once my charity is set up and running then there will be a panel who then make these decisions with me.”
Others argued it was demeaning to expect homeless people to carry around a badge. “It’s a bit demeaning to be tagging people, like the branding from Middle Ages. I feel like our default should be to help people, not to judge whether they are “homeless enough” in the panel’s eyes. I get there are those few horrible people who drive home in their bmw but that’s not the majority.”
Another added: “If I was homeless I’d find having an ID very degrading 😞 I love everything you do for the homeless Dave, you have a massive heart but this is a bit much in my opinion.”
The cricitism was summed up by one commenter who said: “DG has supported local homeless people quite evidently over a period of time but has no authority whatsoever to make decisions about or authorise any type of ID to any other person in relation to their status in society. I am confident that this will be explained to him by the police. Anyone is free to make a personal decision to give another person money or likewise and should not be influenced by an illegal ‘badge’ issued by another member of the public. It is not for one person to determine who is the ‘deserving poor’, we are neither in Victorian England or Nazi Germany.”
Wyre Forest police and existing homeless charities have indicated they wish to speak to Mr Griffin to discuss his plan.
There are estimated to be four rough sleepers in Wyre Forest at any one time, based on official government data. At a council meeting in September, Councillor Fran Oborski, who supports Dave Griffin’s efforts to help the homeless, said she had spoken to him about the extent of the rough sleeper problem and he believed this number accurately reflected the rough sleeper situation in the town. At the same meeting Councillor Helen Dyke was reassured by council housing officers that any known rough sleepers were contacted and advised of the emergency help available but this was sometimes rejected.
The district does though face an increasingly difficult battle to find permanent homes for families and individuals who qualify for homeless support due to losing their home, short term tenancies ending, domestic abuse, or family breakdown. A lack of social housing and affordable private rented housing makes it very difficult for local authorities to offer permanent accommodation to everyone who applies for it.
Data released following a Freedom of Information request by Wyre Life revealed a record number of 164 households (including families) were deemed eligible for help from Wyre Forest District Council’s homelessness team between April and July. That compares to 58 households in the same period last year.
The number of households sent to stay in temporary accommodation since April has also gone up considerably, from just 26 households last year (April to July) to 66 households for the same period this year.
WHERE TO GET HELP
If you are concerned about a homeless person or want advice about homelessness a number of local organisations can provide advice and help:
Wyre Forest Hub at Kidderminster Town Hall – speak to a housing officer to discuss your circumstances and see how they can help or visit the district council website for advice about your options.
For general enquiries call 01562 732928 and for emergency out of hours help call 01562 850053.
Streetlink is a national emergency helpline which you can contact to alert local organisations about rough sleepers you are concerned about. They will then locate and organise help. https://www.streetlink.org.uk/
Worcestershire homeless services for single men and women or homeless couples without children are currently provided by Caring for Communities and People (CCP). Information about their services and how to access help are available on their website.
Wyre Forest Axis youth hub, based at Kidderminster Youth House, provides help for young people up to 25 requiring practical and emotional support, including emergency accommodation www.axisyouthhub.org The hub includes lead partner Wyre Forest Nightstop, which provides emergency accommodation for under 25s with host families, emotional and practical support for young homeless people, and a family mediation service to try to keep families together and prevent young people leaving home or being left without support. View their website here.
Kidderminster Foodbank – provides emergency food for families and individuals in dire straits. Visit the website here
Money Advice Service – An independent service, set up by the government to help people make the most of their money, giving free, unbiased money advice to everyone across the UK, online, over the phone and face to face. View the Money Advice Service website.
Wyre Forest Citizens Advice Bureau – view the website here.
Shelter – The housing and homelessness charity offers advice on a number of subjects including homelessness, finding a place to live, repossession, eviction and money & arrears. View the Shelter website