This week on the day statistics were released showing an increase in homelessness, at the Evening Times we went out to speak to people sleeping rough or begging in the city centre.

We accompanied a group of volunteers who were handing out food.

You don’t need to go far to come across someone on the streets, there were dozens of them.

The statistics showed almost 6000 applications as homeless in Glasgow last year. That doesn’t mean 6000 people on the streets, but there were around 400 who said they had experienced it.

The number of homeless applications had increased, so had the numbers who reported rough sleeping.

READ MORE: Glasgow's homeless describe life on the city's streets

The people visible on the streets in Glasgow and other cities are those with the worst problems, the ones who have fallen through cracks in the system.

For many of them a home is the least of their problems. Homelessness is not in fact the problem but a consequence of the problem or problems.

We spoke to several people, men, women, older, younger, others didn’t want to speak.

One man had somewhere to go at night but said he was “better outside” and he slept rough.

He was begging and the money was going to buy vodka and valium and he was open about it.

That is the case for many. Does it mean they don’t deserve help? That depends on your point of view.

The lack of a home and the drug or drink problem is the visible part of the rough sleeping problem.

What we can’t see is the list of experiences that led to the problems multiplying and leading to a chaotic life they don’t know how to escape other than by obliterating it with one intoxicating substance or another.

Others had been in prison, most had mental health issues.

READ MORE: Glasgow City Council has 'lost contact' with hundreds of homeless people 

The list of drawers you could file these people under was getting longer.

Alcoholism, drug addiction, crime, (victim and perpetrator) abuse, time in care, mental health, institutionalisation, relationship breakdown.

Many had a combination of the above, one leading to another and round and round they go in a cycle of despair and destitution.

And yes, it is evident some are also there as part of an organised begging rota, probably not their choice.

Homeless? Well for most of them yes, but it’s not top of their problem tree.

Many years ago a man started to make a name for himself with a talent for delivering soundbites.

You may remember him, one of his greatest crowd-pleasing hits was “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”.

It worked because it appealed to a broad section of the electorate.

Everyone, except maybe criminals, probably agrees that crime is bad and needs to be tackled.

The tough on crime part appeals to those who want to lock people up and throw away the key.

The tough on the causes to those who want to inquire about the criminal’s feelings and explore their childhood.

And each hears the part they want to hear.

Homelessness can be looked at in a similar way.

If you like you can be tough on the homeless, make life even more difficult for those on the streets. Question their motives, refuse to give them cash or food to force them out of sight. Even criminalise begging if you like.

Many people want to take this approach, sweep them off the streets because they’re chancers, begging for drug money and raking in a small fortune from a gullible public. And they don’t provide a nice backdrop to the city centre, putting you off your coffee.

Some want to address the wider problems, listed above, with interventions and prevention. Take your pick it’s a free country.

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But if you do the latter successfully, then you could maybe have a better argument for the former.

If you have genuinely eradicated the causes of rough sleeping and the toughest cases of street homelessness then you can say no-one needs to beg or sleep on the streets.

Tough on the homeless, OK, if you think they’re at it. But only if you are tough on the causes of homelessness first.