Friday, 31 May 2013

The homeless aren't 'negative impacts' – they are living victims of policy

The current homelessness crisis is a consequence of poverty and austerity above all. 

All current solutions are inadequateHomelessness is not a problem. Homelessness is many problems woven together into a human calamity and a social catastrophe: lack of housing; lack of jobs; lack of money; lack of social support; lack of mental health care; but above all, lack of compassion where it matters.

The past week has vividly illustrated the complexities of the issues. Already the eviction notices have begun to arrive for arrears on the new "bedroom tax", as prompt as they were predictable.

Freedom-of-information requests to 107 local authorities have revealed that 86,000 households in council or housing association properties have been forced to look for one-bedroom homes, of which only 33,000 have become available in the past year.

Meanwhile, the only response of disparate arms of authority is to punish the victims. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Ilford, where last week police raided a disused building to remove a small group of rough sleepers, confiscating the sleeping bags and food which had been donated by charities and members of the public. Chief Inspector John Fish told the press that "the public rely on police to reduce the negative impact of rough sleepers".

One might wonder when rough sleepers ceased being members of the public.

This crisis is a consequence of poverty and austerity, above all.  In the meantime, we can only remind local authorities, politicians and senior police officers that homeless people are not "negative impacts" either on the public's peace of mind or the public purse, they are the living victims of economic policy, ideology and political choices.

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