I’M going to try something a little different with this month’s column. Usually, I bumble on for 700 words or so about some idea or other, more often than not related to films, comic books or movies. But this time, for the first time, I’m going to spend the majority of this opinion piece talking about a recent news story.

Quick reminder, it’s important to note that this is just that – an opinion piece. You’re free to disagree with it (and I expect to hear all about that in the comments section), and my views do not necessarily reflect the views of The Press. If I could underline that or put it in bold, I would. Now that’s out of the way, let’s get started.

The story I want to talk about is the exclusive we ran back on January 1, which explained that a quarter of all homeless people who died in Yorkshire and Humberside in 2017 died in York. It was an exclusive, because nobody else bothered to ask, and the figures hadn’t been published.

The reaction from readers, outreach workers and homeless charities was one of shock because the number of deaths – 11 people died in the city, six in hostels or temporary accommodation and five on the city’s streets - was far higher than they had expected.

Since then, we have run a follow-up which looked at the numbers in the years leading up to 2017, and the figures for 2018. These showed 2017 was an outlying high, but there were still a significant number of people without homes dying in York. Again, nobody had previously asked for these numbers.

Once the dust had settled, some reactions to the stories filtered back to us. Some readers suggested that 11 wasn’t that many, and that people die in the city every day. I suppose as a city with a population of about 200,000, 11 is a small fraction. However, I also think there’s a valid argument that one death of a homeless individual on the city’s streets is too many, and if you’re not even a little bit shocked by the numbers, then that says quite a lot about you.

Another response to the facts was that it’s all very well clutching your pearls and demanding answers, but what do you think could be done differently to reduce that figure?

This is a valid point – presenting opposition without alternatives is worthless, and to the council’s credit, they have done an awful lot of work to try and (for want of a better term), manage the homeless situation.

As explained in the original story and its follow-up, the council secured “£193,000 for 2018/19 and £251,000 for 2019/20 to help people sleeping rough in more tailored ways”.

The 2018/19 funding was used to create a team “to work with rough sleepers with complex needs, which includes outreach, complex needs and mental health workers”, and “ensuring rough sleepers can access private sector accommodation as well as existing hostels, supported accommodation and general social housing”.

The problem, as explained by outreach workers, is that rough sleepers who often do not have drug or mental health problems are frequently offered accommodation which might not be suitable for them.

Personally, my biggest problem with the reaction to the deaths of these unfortunate people was the attitude of some who said ‘well they’ve been offered help and refused it, so technically they weren’t homeless at the time’. But given the choice between sharing a room with drug addicts or people with mental health issues, and spending a night on the street in the hope that somewhere more suitable would come available tomorrow, what would you do?

As frequently stated, this is a complex issue, and it’s not one York faces alone.

It’s not that long ago that, while MPs were braying and hooting about the best way to deal with an unnecessary problem in the House of Commons, a homeless man – who was also apparently holding down a job while living on the streets – died on the doorstep of the Palace of Westminster. How the hell is this okay in what we’re being repeatedly told is one of the wealthiest and most prosperous countries in the world?

The Government has committed to eradicating homelessness by 2027, but it’s unclear exactly how that might happen - especially considering they haven’t been able to agree on a single issue for the last three years.

But the first step is acknowledge there’s a problem, don’t treat it as a box-ticking exercise and don’t try to downplay it – 11 deaths of desperate people, whether by suicide, exposure or worse, in a city like York is 11 too many.

One is too many.