Greed and the Homeless

As I collapse into bed I often think of those unfortunates who have nowhere to sleep at night. I certainly would not last long on the streets, and would soon be either dead or in hospital, or perhaps under arrest and in jail if I became desperate enough to steal food or break into premises.

Like many others, I appease my feelings of guilt by the occasional charity donation and also try to publicise the terrible injustices that lead people to become homeless and protests aimed at improving things. We live in a wealthy society where no one should go homeless or lack food, and I would be much happier if more of the tax I pay went towards making sure these things didn’t happen rather than being wasted on vanity projects such as Trident replacement.

The basic reason why people freeze and starve is simple. Greed. In particular the greed of the rich and wealthy. It’s greed that leads to tax evasion and tax avoidance. Greed that drives legislation such as the Housing Act, which will result in thousands more without homes. Greed that leads to the privatisation of publicly owned services such as the NHS, and so on.

We have become a nation ruled by the greedy and in which many see greed as positive, particularly among the greedy. We have a cabinet of millionaires if not billionaires, and while enterprise is a positive attribute, enterprise simply to pile up riches is simply greed.

Inequalities in society are greater than ever, with company bosses often being paid more than a hundred times the average worker – and several hundred times that of the lowest paid. This income gap is higher in the UK than most developed countries and is growing fast – despite research which indicates that CEOs actually contribute relatively little to their companies success. They get more many because they can get more money and they are driven by greed.

While many in work still need the support of food banks – the real growth success of the Tory government – it is those out of work and on benefits that have suffered most from the greed of our leaders. Of course it isn’t just Tories who suffer from rampant greed, though theirs is spiced with a liberal amount of class prejudice and Iain Duncan Smith idiocy. Labour councils still run many boroughs and many are cosying up with developers to sell off social housing for redevelopment, with some councillors lining up lucrative jobs for themselves – but at the expense of the people they are meant to serve.

Of course there are many who go into political parties with the best of motives – even Tories. But they go into organisations with an institutional bias and few have the ability to withstand becoming corrupted by it – and the very few who stand up against it risk being marginalised or expelled. The Labour Party is in a mess at the moment because those controlling the party expected Jeremy Corbyn to be humiliated in the leadership election but the membership overwhelmingly backed him. But they continue to plot his removal and to frustrate attempts to bring in the policies which won him the leadership vote.

Groups like Streets Kitchen, who organised this protest, do a great job of feeding the homeless – at a time when various councils – Tory and Labour – around the country have been trying to make it an offence to give people food or to be homeless, rather than offer the kind of support people need, or change policies to stop them being forced onto the streets. But Streets Kitchen also realise the need to protest with the homeless for the kind of political changes that are needed. They offer, as the banners say ‘Solidarity Not Charity‘. And they need donations.

Unfortunately we do need Food Banks which have truly kept many alive, giving out millions of food parcels to those without the money to buy food, referred to them by government agencies and charities. Mostly they need food because the DWP has stopped their benefits (often for trivial reasons as staff struggle to meet their targets for handing out sanctions) or because the DWP has made mistakes or is taking weeks or months to process their claims. But while food banks offer respite, their failure to adress the politics that make them needed actually defuses the crisis, lets the government off the hook.

Filmmaker Paul Sng, co-director of Sleaford Mods: Invisible Britain, recently tweeted:

Paul Sng @sng_paul
More than 8000 slept rough on London streets during 2015/16, a figure that’s nearly tripled over the last decade. How is this a golden age?

As a nation we should be hanging our heads in shame – and be on the streets demanding political change.

More pictures at Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

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