Linda Smith and Roger Pepworth (Letters, 4 February) are absolutely correct in linking the tragic deaths of so many homeless people to austerity. The national debate on this issue has been further constrained by political expediency and a blinkered approach to the evidence provided by good practice in this area. Congratulations to Andy Burnham for his initiative and imagination in his approach to homelessness (Off the streets: How Manchester bucked trend on homeless figures, 1 February).
Just over a year ago you published my letter (11 December 2017) congratulating you on an article about Portugal’s approach to substance abuse and addiction. I referred to a young man who had been let down by an incoherent approach to his multiple addiction problems, mental health issues and homelessness. In particular I highlighted the inappropriate and inhumane response of the justice system to the minor offences connected with his addictions. I felt then that he was in mortal danger. He died a week ago.
He had enormous potential. He was much loved but also very ill. Although there were a number of professional individuals helping him, their efforts have been undermined by political cowardice and what Mr Pepworth calls the “wreckage” of the austerity programme. The prison sentences my friend served were inappropriate and futile. I applaud the Guardian for casting light on the scandal my friend’s death represents.
• John Lanchester (On climate change, we boomers really owe the young, 7 February) writes: “It’s not like all of this was a plan. The shift in demographics was foreseeable, but austerity, Brexit and our housing madness were all, essentially, historical accidents.” Really? Were they not all deliberate political choices made by successive generations of the Tory party?
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