By Christopher Rails
W1D ESPREAD public antagonism towards the plight of the homeless could seriously affect the future of some hostels, if new housing laws demand expensive improvements.
This was the view of spokesmen for two Catholic hostels for down and outs this week, in the light of the failure of Mr Joe Dean MP to get his amendments to the Housing Bill accepted by the House of Commons.
Mr Laurie Hindle, of Providence Row Night Refuge, said that although improvements, including better fire precautions would cost over £130,000, recent appeals had been met with a surprisingly low response from the public.
Art appeal on the Radio 4 programme "This week's good cause", given by the Duke of Norfolk, had raised only £6,700, although a target of more than £511,000 had been set. A nationwide appeal on BBC2, at 11.15 at night, had netted only £250, and a further appeal, on Radio London's programme "Quest" had not raised a single penny, said Mr I lindle.
He said the public at large had a "serves-them-right" attitude to homeless and rootless people, and that there was a failure to understand the fundamental issues behind homelessness, such as the fact that once people were out of work, they were "up against it", Landlords were also unwilling to accept tenants who were on Social Security benefits, he said.
this view was endorsed by Mr Martin Curran of the Catholic hostel for Homeless and Destitute men. He said there was "no sensitivity at all regarding the poor" and that lie general public attitude was that down and outs were "a pack of scroungers". People thought that homelessness and poverty was the fault of those who suffered it.
According to Mr Bob Kahn, of the Catholic Housing Aid Society, recent studies on the British attitude to poverty and homelessness bear out the experience of the hostels.
In London, at least 30 young people between the age of 16 and their mid-twenties have been affected by closure of the St Anne's night shelter near Westminster Abbey on May I. The closure was caused by the reclaiming of short-use Crown property earlier than eas expected.
Howeler, the Simon Community is planning to open a shelter beneath the railway arches near St Pancras Station for about 60 down and outs, and badly need voluntary help. They have recently spent more than £8,000 of their funds on imormements to one of their London hostels, includiog the provision of fire doors, and rewiring.
CARDINAL HUME spoke enthusiastically last week of the part played by the laity, especially young people, in the National Pastoral Congress.
In his speech at the official opening of St Dominic's Sixth Form College, Harrow on the Hill, on May 9, the Cardinal said: "The knowledge of the Catholic laity. the judgement and sobriety lo their wisdom was something which was impresseive and I hope not surprising to their clerical brothers, but we the Bishops were very impressed and enormously encouraged by the pariticipation of our laity in that important event in the life of the Roman Catholic Church."
The Cardinal praised specifically the contribution of young people to the Congress, stressing that about a quarter of the 200 Westminster delegates were aged 25 and under. To the students of St Donomic's he said If you have any notion or fear that the young people from this Diocese who represented you in Liverpool were what we might cal tota-mentally religious you have got it very wrong." He said he had rarely been with people "who could be so irreverently pleasant and so pleasantely irreverant."
Cardinal Hume also mentioned the blight of unemployment, and called it a "serious matter" that he has spoken to a 17 year old who was a "professional statistic" and saw no way out of it. • He added that "the kind of world for which we are preparing our young needs very deep reflection, very deep thought and some kind of action."
St Dominie's College eth-ne into existence as part of the cOmprehensive reorganisation of the Roman Catholic sector of education in the Lndon Borough of Harrow.
it has operated as a sixth form college since September last and comprises students from the former sixth forms at the Salvatorian College and Sacred Heart Grammar School in Wealdstone, and from St Dominic's Independent School.
• Cardinal Hume flies out to the United States of America today to join in the celebrations there of the 1.500th anniversary of the birth of St Benedict.
The Cardinal is the obly Benedictine member or the College of Cardinals: He will be in the US until the end ofJune as he is taking the opportunity to respond to some of the many invitations he has had from Americans since he became archbishop of Westminster.
On Sunday he will celebrate Mass and preach in St Patrick's C:athedral, New York, and on Tuesday he will speak at two functions organised by the Friends of Westminster Cathedral.
Other engagements include visits to Benedictine houses in Missain, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Milwakee and Minesota.