Letter: The princess and the plea for the homeless

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From Ms Cheryl St Clair

Sir: It is sad that the Princess of Wales's comments about homelessness have been seized on as evidence that she is entering the party political arena ("Tory MPs angry at Diana's political plea for homeless", 8 December). Homelessness is a social problem, as the princess herself made clear when she referred to "the indifferent stares of passers-by". Away from the lights of the West End, there are many older people with serious health problems sleeping on the streets. Many of them were young people denied their chance in the Fifties, Sixties, Seventiesand Eighties. They, too, "deserve a chance".

Rather than worrying about the princess's politics, should we not be reminding ourselves of our social responsibility: that there are certain fundamental rights that in a civilised world should be available to all - a right to food and shelter, for instance?

As a society we should make it clear to any government that we expect these rights to be upheld, irrespective of public expenditure implications. Meanwhile, the charitable sector continues to do what it can.

The Budget announced the commitment of a further pounds 50m to the Rough Sleepers Initiative over the next three years. This should be enough to maintain the approach in central London - including, we hope, the innovative work we have been doing with older homeless people in the City and the East End - and extend it to other areas.

Yours faithfully,

Cheryl St Clair


Providence Row

London, E1