Author Archives: Peter Jeffries

Our MP voted against helping child refugees – and I’m angry

Our MP’s work on behalf of their constituents – or at least they are supposed to. That’s supposed to be an important principle of our democracy. But in recent days Cheltenham’s MP, Alex Chalk has voted and supported the government in NOT providing help to unaccompanied refugee children. I’m saddened, disappointed and upset, let me explain why.

Cheltenham has bucket-loads of kindness, empathy and compassion. This I’m sure is replicated across the country, and throughout our history this has been highlighted time and again in how we all have responded to natural disasters or humanitarian crisis.

Whenever and wherever …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 23 Comments

My time living on the streets of Cheltenham

As I woke up from my third night on the streets, I started to feel it.  Sleep deprivation had kicked in, so the word didn’t come to me immediately and it still hasn’t as I start to write this article at home in the warm.  Feeling unable to move my mouth to speak properly or even bring to mind the right words wasn’t a side effect I’d imagined.

Stretching in a vain attempt to rid my bones of the deepest imaginable chill, I was sure about one thing: I was in a very different position to the other people who had spent that Saturday night in the nooks and crannies of Cheltenham town centre.  As a council cabinet member for housing, I knew I could make changes to help and had already started to ask myself what should be done.  And answering that question is how I had found myself waking up on the streets.

As anyone involved in the public sector will tell you, the starting point of answering any question is usually some form of consultation.  This means anyone who may be affected by a policy change can have their say.  But in the case of rough sleepers or street people you can’t really ask the people whose lives will be most impacted.  When somebody’s main tasks every day are gathering a few pounds for a meal, staying warm and then finding a place to sleep, why would they bother to take part in something like a council consultation?  And if they’re living on the streets or in insecure accommodation it’s pretty unlikely they’d even find out in the first place.

To get over this hurdle I carried out my own hands-on consultation and my experiences over those three nights will stay with me for the rest of my life.  I won’t be able to shake off that uncomfortable feeling – the name of which I still can’t bring to my sleep deprived mind – for some time.  I’ll always remember the feelings of vulnerability and I’ll always remember the bone-creaking cold.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 5 Comments
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