Is a lack of facilities condemning local people to an early death?

Without the proper services to deal effectively with street drinking many local people are being condemned ‘to an early death’ according to Hastings Borough Council (HBC) leader Peter Chowney

Street drinking he says has long been a problem in Hastings: “Earlier this year, large groups of street drinkers were congregating on the seafront and in other parts of town, although enforcement activities, coupled with an extension of Public Space Protection Orders, have dispersed them,” Mr Chowney says, however that doesn’t mean the problem has gone away.

“It has dispersed into smaller groups at different locations,” he explains.

“Street drinkers are a different problem from rough sleeping. Rough sleepers tend to be transient, moving on quickly, with the more persistent rough sleepers helped into accommodation. Over 90 per cent of rough sleepers in Hastings have no previous local connection.

“Street drinkers on the other hand tend to be local and not homeless. They have often lived here all their lives, or at least for some time. The life expectancy of street drinkers is not long, however, if they don’t receive treatment – average life expectancy of a persistent street drinker is under 50. So enforcement is only part of the problem,” says Mr Chowney.

…will mean condemning too many of our citizens to an early death.

He says that simply moving street drinkers around isn’t of much use which means there’s an escalating process of enforcement that introduces increasingly severe sanctions, with associated ‘encouragement’ to take up alcohol recovery treatment.

“One of the big problems is that there are no residential alcohol recovery facilities in this area – the nearest one is in London,” he explains.

“There used to be two in East Sussex but both closed because their funding was cut. We also have no street drinking outreach service, no trained professional who engages with the street drinking community and encourages them to go into treatment,” he says.

East Sussex County Council (ESCC) commissions local alcohol and drug recovery services and HBC has pointed out the need for an outreach worker in Hastings, but ESCC didn’t include that in the contract that they commissioned.

“Increased numbers of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and a full complement of HBC street wardens will mean that more rigorous enforcement of street drinking restrictions – which mean that in the prescribed areas anyone has to stop drinking if told to do so by a police officer or street warden – will help. But without the services needed to get people into recovery programmes, it’s unlikely to be successful in the long term, and will mean condemning too many of our citizens to an early death,” Mr Chowney concludes

“We need these services, and will keep making the arguments to get them established locally,” he says.

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