[KCLPASS Columns 2016-2017 Issue #6]
Homeless people. We inevitably pass one, if not numerous of them each time we walk the streets of London. Yet, it is precisely this ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentality which we should refrain from adopting. This way of thinking leads us to mistakenly believe that our deliberate ignorance of their struggles is justified. In contrast to the average life expectancy of 81 years for the average citizen in the UK, this section of society has a life expectancy of 47 years. What’s more, they are 13 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the general public (Streets Of London, 2016). 8,096 people were reported by local agencies to have slept rough in London during 2015 to 2016, which demonstrates a six percent increase on the previous year as well as over double the figure throughout 2009 to 2010, as seen from the April 2014 to March 2015 Chain Annual Report for Greater London.
Many people make the false assumption that homeless people are in their predicament simply because they are lazy, however this is untrue. As the homeless charity Crisis said, the rise in London’s homeless people was a result of cuts to benefits, a chronic housing shortage and the “longstanding legal injustice” where many homeless people are not considered a priority for help. Instead of distancing ourselves from this crisis unravelling in front of our homes, we should educate ourselves with regards to the issue before dismissing it because it will only worsen if we further neglect them. Admittedly, this is not a problem that can easily be solved within a night, but that does not mean that we should sit back and allow it to develop.
Sinclair, the chief executive of the homeless charity St Mungo’s Broadway, rightfully said that, “we need to ask what more can be done for these people, what gaps need to be filled to prevent repeat homelessness”. Consequently, it is our duty as residents in London to acknowledge this part of our society, recognise their issues, and contribute to helping them off the streets because this crisis will only be aggravated if it is neglected.
Author: Gloria Kha
KCLPASS Sub-committee member 2016-17
(The view of the author does not represent the position of the Society. KCLPASS is a politically neutral society.)