FIVE hundred and ninety-seven homeless people died on the streets of Britain last year, up from 482 the year before – in fact homeless deaths in the UK have increased every year since 2014.
The figures for 2018 are not available yet, but one thing is for sure, as the cold weather starts to bite, the number of homeless people who end up literally freezing to death is almost certain to rise. One of the most recent tragic deaths is that of 43-year-old Gyula Remes, who was found by his friend Gabor Kasza on Tuesday evening just outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.
Gabor Kasza said his friend had turned blue after choking on his own vomit. Kasza said: ‘This death could have been prevented if he’d been helped to get into a night shelter. He was turned away because he was told that the shelter is full up and there’s no space. ‘The sad thing is he had just got a job working as a chef’s assistant. He was so happy and said: “I can get a lot of food.” He was a kind man, everyone in the homeless community who knew him liked him so much.’
Labour MP David Lammy tweeted: ‘There is something rotten in Westminster when MPs walk past dying homeless people on their way to work.’ Quite! While the MPs, with their second homes, expenses and big salaries sit in the Houses of Parliament, outside their door a 43-year-old homeless man dies.
Over the last five years, the number of homeless people who have died on the streets has risen by 24%. The life span of a rough sleeper is 44 among men and 42 for women, compared with 76 for men and 81 for women among the rest of the population.
Meanwhile, Shelter says that 130,000 homeless children are in temporary accommodation over Christmas, the equivalent of five youngsters in every school, a rise of 59% in five years. Nearly 10,000 of those will wake up on Christmas Day in bed and breakfasts, hotels or hostels where in many cases their family will have been put up in a single room, sharing bathrooms and kitchens with strangers.
Shelter’s director, Greg Beales, said: ‘The number of children hidden away in hostels and B&Bs is enough to make anyone’s heart sink. These are not places for children. We hear about cold, damp – even rats. Young children are sharing beds with multiple family members, trying to play in dirty public corridors and having to leave their block in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.’
This is the sheer horror of homelessness, a direct result of the Tory government’s vicious attacks on the working class. First, the systematic demolition of council housing, bulldozing entire estates to make way for luxury flats, left empty for the super-rich to ‘land bank’.
Then the introduction of Universal Credit (UC), the hated new benefit system, which rolls six benefits into one, represents a savage cut to the amount you receive, and then, because you do not receive a penny until at least six weeks after you have been forced on to the scheme, causes poverty, destitution, starvation and mass evictions.
Thirdly, rents are spiralling out of control, while wages are falling. You now have the emergence of the working homeless, where those with a job, even if they are working six or seven days a week cannot afford to pay rent. Half of homeless people are actually working!
Those who do have a roof over their heads are reduced to living with their entire family in a single room, sharing a toilet with many other families all crammed into a single home. This is the re-emergence of the slum landlords, of the Peter Rachman ilk who operated in Notting Hill in the 1950s and early 1960s. He became notorious for mass evictions, intimidation and exploitation.
Homeless people dying on the streets, 130,000 homeless children, slum housing and Rachman-style landlords, this is the barbarism of ‘modern’ capitalism. The rulers of this country are trying to drive people back to the conditions of the Victorian era.
However, the working class will not be driven back. It is determined to drive forwards to socialism. The only way to tackle homelessness is for the working class to call a general strike to bring this government down. It will then seize empty properties to house the homeless, and build a million new homes a year to ensure every single man, woman and child has a safe and warm home to live in.