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Regional Focus : A Greener Shade of Tramp

Winter is an especially harsh time for those of us not fortunate enough to possess central heating or a roaring open fire to toast chestnuts over. Old people freeze to death trying to keep warm, in some cases with only a cigarette lighter to cup their hands around. Another unfortunate collective is the growing homeless population, succumbing to chill winds as they slumber under old copies of the "News of the World" or urinating on our children. Your cuddly "Big Issue" seller may have been ready with a warm smile as you popped your coins into his hand this afternoon, but tomorrow he could be a frozen corpse like a butcher locked in his meat freezer for a month. However, a glimmer of hope lies on the horizon for the vagrants of Coventry. The city has launched an initiative to recycle it's homeless population, keeping numbers up and helping the environment in a glorious union akin to that of John and Norma Major.

Coventry has one of the largest homelessness problems in the country. 10% of it's population will be homeless at some stage of their lives, claim Stamp Out The Tramp, the charity dedicated to booting the homeless out from under our feet. Spokesperson Jed Longpidgeon told "Catfood" that," Coventry is in a unique situation. There is about one tenth of the population that will not fit into the existing houses and until we build on our abundant surrounding fields then these poor unfortunates will just have to remain stinking in the city's shop doorways. We owe them a shower at least, and perhaps some sandalwood-scented bubblebath, so we must take action now. I blame the Government." In a press conference today, the head of the Fianna Gael-controlled council, Bruce Honker, announced their solution. As a homeless person dies this winter, they will be deposited in "Beggar Banks", large blue skips dispersed throughout car parks and youth clubs across the area. Specially trained seasonal council staff will then load the banks onto lorries and take them to the Pauper Plant, a large reconditioning centre in nearby Warwick. There, the squatter stiffs will be recycled and deposited back on the streets of Coventry. Although, as Honker suggests," These eco-tramps may be grainier less long-lasting than their original counterparts, I hope this goes some way to restoring their numbers.

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Homeless figures have declined in the last


five years, indeed we thought they were going to become extinct by 1995. It is, thus, the duty of every responsible citizen to ensure the homeless survive the winter and we keep their numbers growing towards a new millenium."

Reaction has been scarce. Celebrity beggar Jerry Jammers, who used to be a member of Coventry band "The Specials", has been drinking white spirit and shouting abuse at passers-by from the Vigin Megastore since 1993 in the name of personal and social development. "I think it's a wizard idea," says Jammers, 46 next Monday. "I mean, anything that keeps our numbers up has got to be a good thing. I really thought we were done for in '95". Jed Longpidgeon is less enthuistic. "It's just playing into the hands of a few middle-class fascists who hold positions of power in this country at the moment. If we build new houses on our pointless agricultural land then the tramps will have somewhere to drink themselves silly in. I defy them to protest about that, with their dreadlocks and dogs on string. Bastards!"

Many of the city's residents support the council's move however. One of these local businessman Barry Cord, has hit upon a novel scheme to raise awareness of the plight of the potentially-frozen bench-sleepers. Inspired by the success of red AIDS ribbons, Cord hopes that the good folk of Coventry will wear sepia brooches or lapel badges to highlight their sympathy. "I feel it will reassure these beggars if they see people walking past with a badge on. What I want is for the warmth this creates to provide fuel in a homeless heart to keep them alive." Cord has donated a warehouse to form the Pauper Plant and hopes that anyone seeing a frozen tramp will shove them in a suitable depositary. "We couldn't do this for the dodo, so let's try and help the homeless". He has also hired a stage which he hopes to erect in the city for a benefit concert "I've got Little and Large confirmed and the Three Degrees say they'll try and make it. And I've left a message on Tony Robinson's answer machine." Whether awareness and recycling are enough, or whether, as Longpidgeon suggests "We need to invest more money in the homeless. We must create more, not just tart up the dead ones we've already got", Coventry seems to be one place that takes it's homelessness problem very seriously. Let this be a lesson to you. Especially you York. fin

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