Recent article on the Guardian (www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/apr/21/london-internal-refugee-camps-homeless) suggested that London should think about setting up refugee camps for its homeless. As it got me interested I ended up scrolling though some of the comments. Most people seemed to think that this is some kind of a joke, a provocation aimed at raising awareness of the issue. The problem is real enough, but the social awarness of it is far from sufficient.
There are different types of homeless people – there is rough sleeper, couch surfer, shelter occupier, and family visitor. None of them, apart rough sleepers perhaps, is visible or considered a real problem. Having a place to live makes all the difference for the poor. As long as you have your flat there are things to be done, help to be sought. There are people who’ll help you during your eviction hearing, and schemes to help you pay your rent arrears. If you fall behind with your rent and end up facing eviction the judge will probably look at you kindly and order your landlord to give you yet another chance. But once you’re out, you’re out and on your own. Whether you were evicted due to the fault of your own or not, councils have a duty to rehouse only those in priority need – mainly people with children or those disabled. Everyone else will be refused and informed that it would be best to make arrangements on their own.
So then you have to search. To find a home when you’re employed and capable is difficult, but no one really says how to search for one when you’re homeless, computer illiterate, or disadvantaged in a different way and plan to pay you’re rent with housing benefit. But that’s not all. Say you are eager to look and assume you even know how to. With the constant incline of house prices and introduction of benefit cap you may forget about the inner boroughs. The bigger house you need the further you look; three or four bedrooms will probably take you to a different county. If you need five – you can start familiarising yourself with the map of Wales.
I am fully aware how terrible idea the camps for homeless would be, but do they still sound so ridiculous now?