The number of homeless people has doubled in the last three year, in the last year increasing by 13%. In 2012, Boris Johnson pledged to eliminate rough sleeping in London; this he has spectacularly failed to do. Some say that the increasing numbers are a consequence of housing benefit cuts, soaring rents and the closure of a dozen hostels and day centres — leaving 784 fewer emergency beds in the capital.It does seem apparent that the changes to welfare benefits including the ‘bedroom tax’ and the new council tax legislation will lead to an increase in homelessness as people simply will not be able to find the extra cash required of them. Most people I know now are feeling the pinch and the stress caused by the pressure of having to pay ever-rising bills is evident.One can quiet understand how in many ways a life on the street could seem an option for those with no responsibility, simply because it removes a massive layer of stress; of course it is far from ideal and it would just be a case of existing on the charity of soup kitchens or going, Freegan style through supermarket skips. But there are plenty who live in red-brick houses who are now relying on the charity of food banks , who are ignoring bills and not daring to heat their homes. These people too are only existing and doubtless keeping a roof above their heads only by the skin of their teeth.
I thought that councils had a legal duty to find a homeless person somewhere to stay but according to the government website, “Your council must help if you’re legally homeless, but how much depends on your eligibility, your level of need and if your homelessness is your fault.” This seems very woolly, how can you be illegally homeless? And what constitutes “your fault?” There are get-out clauses everywhere in this statement. Rather then turn to councils, most fall on the charities such as Shelter, Crisis and Centrepoint. These are the well-known ones, the latter with royal patronage but there are many more. The politicians do not seem to feel any embarrassment that there is the need for these charities or that so many people lack the basic human right of having a home. It is difficult to participate fully in society without one and it is indicative of how our society has such large social disparities, largely ‘swept under the mat.’
Shelter are campaigning to fix private renting; buying a home is out of the question for the younger generation as house prices have risen out of all proportion and job security is non-existent.There has consequently been a massive increase in the number of people who rent-9 million people in England one third of them are families.Soaring costs, rocketing letting-agent fees and poor conditions, renting isn’t working and is also becoming out of reach.The really worrying fact is that homelessness is often associated with a range of other problems such as alcohol and drug abuse, and mental health problems. But do people become homeless because they are already struggling with these problems? Some people have argued that these problems only develop after someone has become homeless. Whatever the facts, it is the vulnerable in society who are the ones sleeping rough, Is this the mark of a civilised country?