Monday, November 06, 2006

Remembrance - afterthought

In the fortnight before Remembrance Sunday, RBL volunteers sell poppies just outside the church gate in the pathway crossing the churchyard, where they always get good custom. A little further along on several occasions sits a poorly clad homeless man in his early thirties who begs to buy drugs. He's often there. He gets arrested several times a week. He spends a night in police custody, is charged and taken to court next day, then released as there is no suitable facility to take him or treat him, and no punishment sufficient to serve as a deterrent. The charity soup runs for street people morning and night feed him and his associates.

There are no more than a couple of dozen destitute addicts at the most, haunting the centre day and night, dealing and/or consuming drugs, they either steal or beg to fund the habit. It's a source of frustration to social workers, city centre management, police and community health and safety officials. Within an hour of the Magistrates releasing him, he is back begging again, until he raises enough for a fix, or gets arrested again. Professionals speak of the 'rotating door' they are helpless to check, despite their experience, training and resources. They all have the will and the desire to help, but lack an inspired remedy.

I wonder if poppy selling veterans make the connection between this sick sad feller and the young squaddies blown up in Afghanistan. Worlds apart, except that the heroin consumed begins its life in Afghan poppy fields as a cash crop, earning money that not only feeds farmers' families, but as it increases in value travelling West, it pays for weapons used against 'our boys'. What on earth can be done to break that vicious economic cycle, so dependent on the 'consumers', who are the shadow side of the city's flourishing commercial economy?

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