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Proletarian issue 75 (December 2016)
Severe rise of homelessness in Britain
Homeless protesters criminalised for attempting to draw attention to this shameful reality.
Capitalism has failed, despite the state apparatus persisting in trying to convince us otherwise. We are constantly told that the worst of the 2008 economic crash is long gone and all we have to look forward to now is non-stop growth.

This maybe the case for the winners amongst the ruling elite, whose wealth is increasing by billions every year, but for the masses, this mirage is not materialising. For an increasing number of people, capitalism can no longer provide the basic necessities to workers, even in a rich imperialist country like Britain.

A system that condemns people to sleeping and begging on the streets and then on top of that criminalises them when they do so is a failure, regardless of how well it has done for some people.

According to a recent BBC Radio 4 programme entitled The Hidden Homeless: “The number of people who are homeless is on the rise. In London it shot up almost 80 percent in four years. Latest government figures show councils in England took on 15,000 new homeless households between April and June this year – a 10 percent increase on the previous year.”

On its website, Crisis, the main charity for homeless people in Britain, reports: “In 2015, government statistics showed that 3,569 people slept rough on any one night across England – this is over double the number counted in 2010. Local agencies report 8,096 people slept rough in London alone throughout 2015/16 – a 6 percent rise on the previous year, and more than double the figure of 3,673 in 2009/10.”

To highlight these grotesque statistics, the homeless people of Leeds decided to congregate outside the city’s central library in October, with commentators dubbing the rally ‘tent city’. Using tents and sleeping bags left behind at Leeds Festival, they pitched up for several days to demand increased provisions and better treatment from the council.

One man told Proletarian that he received no contact from the council for several weeks and lived in squalor, relying solely on business philanthropy. However, the council were quick to respond to their mobilised protest, taking the homeless people to court and demanding they move their demonstration to a quiet park outside the city centre.

Debra Coupar, a Labour councillor who pushed for the break-up of the protest, stated: “We’d prefer the group to disband voluntarily. However, they clearly wish to continue their protest ... Continually going to court to move people on is costly and unproductive, as there are few, if any, locations in a city as diverse as Leeds where the camp wouldn’t cause some level of disruption to residents and businesses.” (Leeds tent city protesters agree to move location, BBC News)

Labour, the so-called ‘party of the people’, not only refuses to expose this violation of basic human rights committed by one of the wealthiest nations on earth, but actively criminalises and marginalises the victims. If this doesn’t illuminate to you the essence of social democracy, then what will?

However, being homeless does not just mean sleeping on the streets. To be legally defined as homeless, you must either lack a secure place in which you are entitled to live or not reasonably be able to stay in your current accommodation. This includes the many ‘hidden homeless’ people, who are just as homeless as those who resort to sleeping on the streets but remain invisible.

Crisis states: “If you do not qualify for local authority housing assistance, if you are sleeping rough, staying in a hostel, a squat or some other form of unsatisfactory or insecure accommodation, then you are one of the countless thousands of hidden homeless people.”

As proven by Leeds’ tent city demonstration and articulated beautifully by former Black Panther Assata Shakur (who, with a price put on her head by the FBI, was given political asylum in Cuba): “Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” (Assata, an Autobiography, 2014)

Homelessness could easily be eradicated if the distribution of the vast resources in this tremendously wealthy nation were planned so that all citizens’ needs were met. It is up to the masses to realise their power and potential and to create a society in which all the wealth created is used to provide what people really need, and to ensure that what is produced is distributed equitably.
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