Euan McGrory: There is hope in the seemingly endless battle against homelessness

A homeless man with his dogs begs for cash
A homeless man with his dogs begs for cash
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Won’t they just blow it on drugs or Carlsberg Special Brew?

It’s a question many of us have considered when walking past someone begging on the streets. There is plenty of research to suggest that yes there is a high chance they might do just that.

Harder to answer is the more important question, does it matter? Are we actually helping by giving in to humanitarian instincts or just fueling an addiction that keeps someone stuck on the streets?

The dilemna is similar to one being wrestled with by city authorities around the world.

The question for them is whether to continue with the traditional hardline approach to rough sleepers with severe drug and alcohol problems. Do you still insist they deal with their addictions before offering them a home? Or do you accept that by first providing a home you vastly increases their chances of getting their life back to together?

It may sound like a ‘bleeding heart liberal’ approach - and the intenisve support required does not come cheap - but there is growing evidence of its success in Finland and the US. That success is informing the approach being taken in Edinburgh.