A wake-up call

First published in Leader

THE death of a homeless man on the streets of Durham is a reminder that, like all communities, the city has its share of people on the margins of society more vulnerable than most.

While most of us go about our normal business, at work or at leisure, there are increasing numbers of people falling by the wayside.

People like Ian Hallimond, aged 45, once married with a daughter, once in full-time employment as a butcher.

What made him an alcoholic we don't know, but he spent his last two years sleeping rough in a tent on Durham's riverbanks, until his death, in a bus shelter, last Friday night.

In the current climate, the safety net that might catch people like Ian from their descent into despair is increasingly stretched and less than comprehensive.

The Salvation Army, through its Sanctuary 21 project, is one of the few organisations to get involved with practical assistance.

If a Big Society exists in Durham, as envisaged by the Prime Minister, it has failed to provide the safety net for people like Ian.

Is that because we just expect the State to provide the means to save them from themselves? We all know that's not going to happen.

Either we back institutions like the Salvation Army, or we find other ways to protect the city's most vulnerable.

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