1 JANUARY 1965, Page 8

Through the Mesh

The first conception of our social services was that of a safety net spread beneath the old and the sick, the incompetent and the unlucky. We have moved a long way since then towards the role of the state as a universal provider. Now in days of full employment, of prosperity and of much higher standards of education there is some- thing of a move back towards greater self- reliance and more choice. However that political argument may develop, the safety net will always be needed, and a report Non-Citizens of 1964 frdm the Simon Community and The Homeless in Britain fund, shows that even today the mesh is too large. Read this extract in the comfort of your own home.

Stepney Sombsites. In the bombed buildings groups of men will sleep at personal risk from broken floor boards dnd in damp basements. On the open and exposed sites schools of methylated- spirit drinkers, averaging seven to nine men in the group, nightly keep themselves warm by bonfires made from timbers torn from the bombed buildings, and lying on old cushions and broken furniture pulled from the building, or on rubble covered-with broken glass from the meths and wine bottles of years. These men are given casual daytime support and help by the Brother- hood of Prayer and Action of St. Botolph's Crypt, but on the whole their plight is untouched by social work. Police action is on the whole toler- ant and even helpful, to the extent that officers will flash their torches at regular intervals over a group but take no further action. In the opinion of some of the officers they arc unable to cope with the size of the problem, and find it pointless to arrest these men, who are verminous and often sick, thus creating the necessity for cleaning cells after use by the prisoners, only for them to be brought before the court and sent to prison, from which they eventually return to the only home they know to continue the same pattern.

And having read it, write to Homeless in Britain Fund, Christian Action, 2 Amen Court, F('4, with either an offer of help or a cheque.