Yesterday, we were visited by some neighbouring pub landlords. They had suffered some significant destruction to their property over the weekend, had reason to believe that the addicts sleeping rough in our grounds were responsible, and they were understandably angry. What were we doing about it, they asked? The answer is, we are working with the City Council, the police, and several agencies, to address a complex situation, for which we are all under-resourced.
People go to pubs for the same reason that they take classified drugs, or attempt suicide: to numb their pain, and forget about their worries. Pub landlords are licenced drug dealers, of regulated drugs. So, too, are GPs and pharmacists.
Drug addiction, with its antisocial behaviour and cost to society, is a whole-of-society issue, and one fuelled by an every-man-for-himself isolationist outlook. Carrying more than we can bear; self-medicating; turning away. To be in deep despair and look over the road and see pubs full of people numbing their pain, indifferent to your pain, while others make a profit from it all; well! Is destructive rampage justifiable? No, absolutely not; and this is a matter for the police. But is it understandable? Yes, I believe that it is. And if we fail to understand, if we refuse to attempt to understand, we show ourselves to be part of the problem, not the engagement with addressing the problem.
Neither rough sleeping nor drug addiction are inevitable in our society; they are symptoms of a breakdown we are all complicit in, and can address, together. There are no easy answers, or quick fixes; no naïve happy-ever-afters. But it begins with admitting that I can do nothing on my own, but need the help of a greater power. It begins, and ends, with Love.