The new lepers are the homeless
From the outset, I would like to make it clear that not all homeless people are homeless because they choose to live that way. A few people do choose that way of life but many have homelessness thrust upon them. Each person's story is different and everyone's needs also differ. It is also true that not all homeless people are rough sleepers, there are many people who live in B&B's or in hostels. What classifies them as homeless is a lack of security of tenure, they are not guaranteed a roof over their heads for a minimum of six months, and hostel dwellers may not be certain they can return to the hostel the next night. They are by definition poor and cannot afford to rent a property in the private market place even if they have a job or a pension. Many have to live with live family or friends and become, what is not known as 'sofa surfers.' Under the UK definition of the term sofa surfers are also classed as homeless. There are no accurate statistics for this group, which means the true number of homeless people is likely to be far greater than the propaganda figures issued by central and local government.
Despite attempts by the authorities and TV documentaries to depict homeless people as disease–ridden, as petty criminals, alcoholics, drug addicts, social misfits and people suffering from mental health issues, this is not always the case. Mori public polling for The Salvation Army found that people view the main reasons for homelessness as individual choices and circumstances. Reasons given included addiction to drugs and alcohol, or personal debt. Negative stereotyping prevails, the public have no sympathy for the homeless because they have 'done it to themselves.' People who experience homelessness or other hardships have simply failed to work hard and seize opportunities. This is a common held view and also was the view of Theresa May, the last Prime Minister.
There are many homeless people who are not alcoholics, who do not take drugs, who are not criminals, who are not anti–social, who do not have mental health issues and are generally well adjusted and responsible people who have become homeless, destitute or both, through no real fault of their own. But society chooses to treat them without empathy, preferring to ignore them, or to regard them as human vermin. A massive 72% of the UK population believe that homeless people could get themselves off the streets if they wanted to and they hold this view without any understanding of the problems faced by the poor and homeless. Those with a social conscience can drop a tin of baked beans into a food bank collection box at the local supermarket. Homelessness and poverty is always someone else's problem isn't it? Well, actually it is officially the problem of the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Housing and Homelessness) until 25 July 2019 this was Heather Wheeler MP, currently the post is vacant.
In March 2018, following her promotion to a Government position with responsibility for homelessness, Heather Wheeler told the Guardian newspaper that she did not know why the number of rough sleepers had increased in recent years. Wheeler rejected the suggestion that welfare reforms and council cuts relating to her Government had contributed to the rise. Earlier in the same month, Wheeler promised to resign if the number of people rough sleeping got worse while she was in office.
Heather Wheeler was still in office on 25 July 2019, despite a significant rise in rough sleepers. Of course, the government statistics for the number of rough sleepers in no way truly represents the actual number of people sleeping rough in the UK, a fact upon which all charities helping the homeless agree. Wheeler's qualification for her position as the minister of state responsible for the homeless was ten years working for Lloyds Insurance before she became a career politician. It is significant that she remained in office after the election of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister until 25 July 2019, despite her having been spectacularly ineffective in her job. The fact that no one has replaced her as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Housing and Homelessness) could reflect on the new Prime Minister's attitude towards the homeless problem. Time will tell, so to speak.
Hannah Richardson, BBC 22 August 2019: 'More than 210,000 children are estimated to be homeless, with some being temporarily housed in converted shipping containers, a report (by Victoria Derbyshire) says.
The Children's Commissioner for England says that as well as the 124,000 children officially homeless, a further 90,000 are estimated to be "sofa-surfing". Victoria Derbyshire's programme tells of families housed in repurposed shipping containers and office blocks, and whole families living in tiny spaces.
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said, 'Anyone who feels they have been placed in unsuitable accommodation should request a review.' Thus totally missing the point that it was the councils who placed the families in unsuitable accommodation in the first place, the same councils who said they had no choice because of the growing number of homeless and the absolute lack of social housing (a legacy of Margaret Thatcher's government). The initial stage of the Review Process is handled by the same council officials who decided the accommodation was 'suitable' in the first place and if that cannot be resolved (which it won't be!) the second stage is an evaluation of the case by a council lawyer (who will reject the Review) and after that the only course of redress is the Ombudsman who can only recommend a solution, not overturn a decision made by the council. In other words, the Review Process under Section 7 of the Housing Act is a load of bollocks.
In November 2018 Shelter reported that 320,000 people in Britain have been swept up by the housing crisis and now have no place to call home. There are no up–to–date stats for 2019 (ignoring government spin on homeless figures) but it is likely that this figure of 320,000 now has dramatically increased. In 2018, more than 50,000 homeless people were living in B&Bs across UK – almost 10 times the official figure of 5,870 recorded by government, according to homeless charity Justlife. A third had been there for more than six weeks – despite this being unlawful.
Britain, the greatest country on earth.
Boris Johnson's first speech to parliament as UK Prime Minister 26 July 2019 contained the immortal rhetoric: '…re-energizing our great United Kingdom and making this country the greatest place on earth.' Way to go, Boris!
We are led by an elitist government who are as remote from the grass–roots problems of society as they could possibly be despite all their protests to the contrary. We have a Shadow Government who are about as inspiring and as flat as a pint of southern beer. We have an elitist society and a great imbalance in the standards of living.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) commission on economic justice ranks the UK as the fifth most unequal country in Europe. Housing costs in Britain are disproportionate to income and over a fifth of the population live on incomes below the poverty line after housing costs are taken into account. It isn't difficult to see that such a precarious housing situation can easily lead to more homeless, all it takes is for a few of the cards to tumble and there but for the Grace of God!
Nearly one in three children live in poverty and the use of food banks is rising.
The top twenty percent of Britain's households earn six times more than the bottom twenty percent. Forty–four percent of Britain's wealth is held by ten percent of the population.
The social values I knew as a child growing up in post‐war Britain have seemingly now mostly evaporated. This was a culture more orientated to sharing and caring. In 2019, we live in a hedonistic society. In my experience today, Britons are a non–caring race, hypocritical, self–centred, cold, judgmental, unsympathetic and quite often unfair, down–right nasty and often violent to those in need, especially the homeless. OK, there are a few good, kind and helpful people around, but one rarely encounters them when one needs them most.
'Several clients said that they or people they had known who were sleeping rough had their sleeping bags set on fire or had been urinated on while they slept. Children threw rocks and bottles at a client while he slept; on another occasion a man asked him if he was okay before striking him in the face and breaking his jaw.' source: St Mungo's article on the dangers of sleeping rough.
It is not in the British mentality to care about the weak, sick and agèd, these are groups of people that are viewed by government and the general public at large as a burden on society – a waste of space. Britons look down on those less well off than themselves, regard poverty and homelessness as being the individual's own fault that they are in the state they are in. The scene is set from the top:
Theresa May speaking in Parliament on Wed 3 Apr 2019:
“No one wants to see poverty rising and we take this very seriously indeed but the only way to tackle poverty is a strong economy and a welfare system that helps people into work…”
Arbeit macht frei, Theresa? We have rising poverty, homelessness and soaring food bank use and Britain is the fifth biggest economy on Earth. Perhaps Theresa May and her government could have learned from the Nazi Party, the National Socialists solved the problem of homelessness relatively quickly:
Instead of destroying poverty, it was considered cheaper and more efficient to destroy the poor.
So Theresa May and her government saw full employment as the key to ending poverty and homelessness in Britain. Many homeless people actually have jobs or pensions but their income isn't sufficient to allow them to rent property in the private property market or to feed their families. Polly Neate, the chief executive of housing charity Shelter, told delegates at the housing summit in Sept 2018 that unless welfare reform and the benefits cap were reversed, the county would see “absolutely unacceptable levels of destitution”. One could argue, Polly, that we already have absolutely unacceptable levels of destitution now!
Britons are naturally Serfs, it is in their genes, and the poor and less educated habitually look up to their "betters" because that is how people have been brainwashed from childhood. This brainwashing being reinforced by schooling and tradition. Consequently, parliamentary representatives who come from highly affluent and privileged backgrounds are elected by the masses. Our current Prime Minister Boris Johnson was educated at the European School, Brussels, Ashdown House, and Eton College. He read Classics at Balliol College, Oxford.
Not surprisingly, the privileged classes have no concept of what it is like to be poor and have no sympathy and zero tolerance for those less well off than themselves. Those engaged in politics are mostly self–seeking power people who promise all sorts of social reform to get elected but have no interest at all in doing anything to sort out Britain's growing levels of poverty. Keeping people poor is a means of suppressing the population. Maintaining vast inequalities in wealth and in the education system favours the rich middle classes. Educating the poor creates a real and dangerous threat to the privileged classes. If education and employment were based on merit rather than on privileged background many incompetent idiots in Britain's top jobs would fade into anonymity. But this is just a dream, it will never be allowed to happen despite Boris Johnson's promises to create a meritocracy in Britain where all will get an equal chance. Such promises are candyfloss.
Children are the future…
Government figures showed over four million children in the UK were living in relative poverty in 2018. That’s one in three. As Universal Credit takes hold, more families will be pushed into poverty.
Truly, a national statistic we can all be proud of. Again we could forcibly sterilize the poor as the Nazis did to thousands of their own people working on the principle that poor people cannot afford children as these would just become a future burden on the State. In Britain we may not go that route but one can never be sure of anything. We are led to believe Britain cannot afford to end homelessness and child poverty because the poor old tax payer just cannot afford to foot the bill, however:
CND has calculated that replacing Trident, Britain's nuclear weapons system, will end up costing at least £205 billion, and that's before taking into account that Ministry of Defence projects typically go well over budget.
The cost of Brexit to the British economy is running at £40bn a year according to Gertjan Vlieghe, a member of the Bank of England's monetary policy committee.
Theresa May also famously stated that homelessness was a greater problem in many other EU countries than in Britain. Well, that's no excuse but she could learn again from the Germans, this time the current ones:
New measures in Frankfurt now requires those who sleep in public places to pay an on-the-spot fine of €40. Homelessness in Germany has risen dramatically in recent years, with hundreds of thousands sleeping rough nationwide.
09/05/17 Six young men charged with the attempted murder of a homeless man in a Berlin station have appeared in court. The attack, which sparked national outrage, was likely a "spontaneous act of boredom," prosecutors said.
But that's Germany.
Sun Newspaper, 16 May 2019: Laughing youths set fire to a homeless man’s tent while he was still INSIDE and threw rocks at him. The heartless kids ran away laughing as the tent went up in flames in Dublin.
And in the UK?:
07/10/2017 Daily Mail: Two teenage girls set light to a homeless man's possessions in Portsmouth. CCTV recorded Nicola King urinating on the victim's bedding. She then provided a lighter to Jerely Evans so that she could set fire to the bedding, destroying the few possessions the homeless man had leaving him without any bedding or a blanket. The court heard the statement of the victim who stated after the incident that "he was gutted and could not believe that all his possessions had gone". The girls were given a four month's prison sentence.
And currently? Has the way the Crown Prosecution Service dealt with King and Evans been a deterrent to others? Decide for yourself:
13/07/2019: Scotland Yard said it is investigating after one or more people set light to homeless people sleeping rough in Croydon. Two people were treated for minor burns after their sleeping bag or other property was set alight, police said. The incidents were reported in the area of George Street and Surrey Street in the early hours of Monday. “Detectives believe others may have been targeted,” a police spokesman said as an appeal was launched for any further victims or witnesses to come forward.
These are not isolated incidents. Violent acts against the homeless are commonplace in Britain. Mostly, the perpetrators are young people who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The government do not see any of this as a priority and plan to end homelessness by 2029. Homeless people are not likely to be casting a vote at the next elections and are therefore of no interest whatsoever to politicians.
Read Part Two next month: