Rough sleeping is a problem. For everyone. A problem for the people themselves, a problem for the people who have to put up with drug and alcohol induced issues, a problem for the government. However whilst the problems may be many the solutions are really quite simple. It’s just a matter of what’s a priority for the government. The issue of homelessness can be stopped pretty much overnight (although you will always get a handful who do at least on the surface appear to prefer the street life. But there is also a reason for that)
For me there should be no other more basic worthy cause than providing two things for the people, no matter what country. A permanent roof over your head and enough food to live a healthy existence. Anything else is secondary. If the government is not providing those two basic things then there is something wrong with the system. How can it be viewed any other way.
People will argue that they either don’t deserve it because of their drink or drug habits or that they cause anti social behaviour when they are given a place.
It’s important to address both of those unique issues. Many people who become homeless are like you and I, maybe they once had a place of their own and held down a job. In my old line of work I spoke to one homeless person who had both of these things and had only been homeless for a short while in comparison to others, but it all started when he lost his job and couldn’t afford the rent after his partner left. He couldn’t get given a place for the fact he hadn’t been homeless for long enough.
A lot of substance abuse starts after people become homeless. Imagine yourself in similar circumstances and that hope that you will be given a leg up by the system soon enough only for those hopes to be dashed again and again. The psychological impact will be great and often what follows is the lack of what otherwise would be reasonable thought processes. Substance abuse is something that can happen to anyone given the right cocktail of circumstances much the same can be said for homelessness itself. The old saying goes that we are all just one wrong step away from that same position ourselves. Once you are in that self destructive process you may find they eventually offer you a place, usually in a hostel of some kind and here is where things can be just as bad as living on the street if not worse.
Can you imagine what a hostel would look like if it is full of people that have been on the street for too long? The people who have already succumbed to those substance traps? Some of the most vulnerable in our society reside in these places, and you, now being finally offered a place to stay have to now share at close quarters corridors and ‘living rooms’ and kitchens with some of the most world weary people in our society. This is why many people end up back on the streets. Couple that with the ‘rules’ of the accommodation in question. Maybe they have curfews or they demand that the staff control your finances for you, only allowing you certain funds per day or per week. Maybe alcohol is banned from the premises and whilst a few of these rules may be in the best interests of the residents, it’s another limitation of your life, and you are addicted. Through little fault of your own circumstances, you are now an addict living with people you may consider in a far worse state than you and you have come from the relative freedom of the street to a rule ridden hell hole. Deal with that? Could you? You may be lucky enough not to have been trapped in the addiction cycle or touched a drop of drink which would make that scenario even worse. Scary perhaps. What cost to leave and go back on the street?
Could you even blame the residents in the Hostels? After all, the system likely waited too long to help and they became lost to it the day they first took their poison of choice. Now, living in a hostel, with limited freedoms, no job prospects and no money or life to call their own and an inability to harbour any ‘aspirations’ as the Tory (and Labour for that matter) party like to use the term to ensure that you know exactly the difference between the people they like and the people they dislike. If you haven’t got aspirations, you’re useless. We’re not talking any old life aspirations here, we’re talking aspirations to work and pay taxes. God forbid you don’t want to have any part in a capitalist system, you are as good as dead to the government and if you’re either a street person or someone left to rot in a hostel, you really are as good as dead because you have zero potential.
In some ways there is little hope for the people already lost to the system, all we can do is perhaps take pity and support them where we can but what of the next generation of homeless soles? Is it inevitable that they too will sink into the abyss that is the dark streets of our cities? Probably. Unless a government decides to invest. Unless a government decides that under its watch, no citizen will go needlessly homeless nor hungry.
Of course though that costs money. It really doesn’t have to, but then we wouldn’t be living in a capitalist society. We do, for now, and that means the government has to stump up the money. Where would it come from though? I suggest the same place that the estimated £40 Billion for HS2 comes from or the earmarked £20 Billion for Trident or the recent £20 Billion on Cross Rail 2 or perhaps the £15 Billion upcoming road improvements but you see, these improvements means more ‘wealth creation’ for the government. Defeating hunger and homelessness produces small reward. Sure, more people would work and bring in taxes but that would be small fry compared to the ‘wealth creation’ that infrastructure improvements bring. So sod them. If people become homeless it’s just a thorn in the side for the government. An irritant at best and they can always ‘clean up the mess’ later.
There is a new system in place in many councils now where if a homeless person is deemed at serious risk of mental health issues then their housing needs will be met as a priority over someone who is about to be made homeless. So for example if you are about to be kicked out of your home and are expecting to be rehoused, don’t. Because if a homeless person has a mental health issue then chances are you will be left to go homeless and using this system, you don’t get rehoused again as a priority unless you are at risk of a mental breakdown and there may well be a long queue of people in front of you. So whilst this system is meant to help get people into housing that need it most it serves to only create a new line of homeless people, a line of homeless people that never needed to be there in the first place. You can find the information for this via this news article.
Giving everyone a roof over their head would give people aspiration in life and in work, going people a roof over their heads is viable. It doesn’t even have to be a regular house in a regular street. There are many projects appearing where pop up houses can be installed that have enough space to live in, all the basic mod cons at a fraction of the cost of building a house. They don’t even have to be placed in far away places, out of sigh from the rest of society. They can be aesthetically changed if needs be and done in a way that doesn’t create poverty ghettos like council housing has often done in the past. Which in turn has given residents of council estates a bad reputation for similar reasons that homeless people have a bad reputation.
No one denies that homelessness brings with it problems, societal problems as well as financial and life problems for all those involved, but the point is it need not be that way. If the government acted to address this it would not take a leap of faith to realise that so many issues surrounding homelessness could be solved overnight if only we lived a more people focused existence.
It all boils down to one thing at the moment. Cost and jobs and the balance of doing something or not doing something about it. The government chooses to do nothing because it doesn’t recognise humanity as a primary issue. Money and capitalism comes first. It has to. Capitalism exists for the purpose of making profit. If profit stops then the system collapses as has often been seen during eras of boom and bust. (Remember when Labour said Boom and bust was over? What do you think the 2008 financial crisis was?), and due to the ability of governments to print money on a whim in the name of quantitive easing, those book and bust periods never quite manifest into a full scale collapse so we will always see book and bust and this financial crisis won’t be the last.
If we lived a socialist lifestyle.. Well. That’s another blog post but in short. There would be no such thing as homelessness.