WORKERS earning wages, employed in respected professions are sleeping in the streets and working during the day, or night is something shockingly new to the modern post-1945 UK.
In third world countries it is a way of life. In great cities like Colombo, a tour of the industrial districts will bring you face to face with workers sleeping in the gutter, the day shift sleeping at night and the night shift during the day, till their shifts resume. This way of life is starting to become the norm for young workers in the UK!
Channel 4’s Dispatches at 8pm tonight deals with this explosive issue, of a society being driven back to the 19th century, at the same time as the rich are getting immeasurably richer. It reveals that Britain is in the grip of a housing crisis where the average rental deposit is more than £1,000 and where most renters have to pay their first month’s rent in advance.
For people on a low income, particularly those with irregular hours, in the gig economy with its fixed term or zero hours contracts, such deposits are completely unaffordable.
Reporter Datshiane Navanayagam, knows about the subject because she has experienced homelessness twice herself.
Now she is exploring London’s streets and shelters to meet working people who have been priced out of a home, at the start of their working career. She has met Emma a teacher in adult education who became homeless after her marriage broke down. To begin with, she slept in her car and washed in public toilets before finding a place at the 999 Club homeless shelter, where she sleeps on a mattress on the floor.
Emma hides her identity because she does not want her employer to know about her situation. Emma told Dispatches: ‘I keep on working because that was about the only thing that nobody could ever take away from me. It was the only thing that was keeping me going. I have been asked to look for deposits that I cannot actually meet up to…. Nobody keeps £2K on hand just like that… ‘I have ended up sleeping in my car… I go into McDonald’s, in the early hours of the morning to have a brush and clean my face and dress up and come out like a clean girl….’
Sheila Scott, founder of ‘Shelter from the Storm’ comments: ‘We reckon that on average, about 30 per cent of the people who stay here will be in employment. It’s the woman who looks after your granny, people who are working as teaching assistants in schools. There’s no actual sort of homeless person… they can be anybody….
‘…The sums just don’t add up. If you’re on a minimum wage job, it’s almost impossible to find somewhere easy to… affordable to live. ‘We find an awful lot of the people here have just been evicted by their landlords; sometimes cos they want to up the rent. We’ve had quite a few of those.
‘Private rents have gone up 22% in London in the last 6 years, the housing benefit has been cut, it hasn’t matched the level of rent increases.
‘Nationally they’ve increased 16% in that time. Housing benefit is the kind of safety net there to help people when they’re having these issues, but that can’t always cover the shortfall.
‘…I think in this country we’re at a crisis point. We really need a lot more social housing that is available to people who are on low incomes.’
However, while the working poor and their children are suffering and are out on the streets, the rich have never been so well off. The Sunday Times Rich List for 2018 published on May 13th which ranks the 1,000 wealthiest individuals and families in the UK, showed that only the USA and China are home to more billionaires than the UK.
Number one on the list was Jim Ratcliffe, net worth: £21.05 billion. Ratcliffe’s wealth has increased a whopping £15.3 billion since last year, making him the first ever British-born industrialist to top the list.
Next are Sri and Gopi Hinduja, net worth: £20.644 billion. The top 19 are worth over £211.2 billion. Poverty in the midst of plenty is a huge current contemporary scourge. It can only be resolved through a socialist revolution that expropriates the expropriators, to go forward to Socialism and then Communism.