Walking through the City Centre of Leicester there were sleeping bags and duvets everywhere. Lots of them in lots of different places, in front of shops and on street corners. The homeless crisis appears to accelerate at an unprecedented pace. Nobody seems to care with the exception of a very few who toss a coin or two. Busy shoppers ignore what they are seeing. Life has to go on and the High Street shopping experience has to continue unabated. The economy has to roll on unobstructed, the golden calf of modern ‘civilization’.

There were a number of ‘unoccupied’ sleeping bags so to speak. I can only imagine the owners went to the toilet or got something to eat. It was a cold January day after all. I saw mostly young people, under thirty and mostly male. There was also a young woman who clearly appeared distressed.

Jim (because I didn’t catch his name I will just call him Jim), one homeless young man agreed to be interviewed. He spoke about having gone to rehab thinking the council has been informed but when he had done the course he found himself homeless again. The council argued he made himself intentionally homeless. He further explained that the council wanted to shift the problem elsewhere. They told him he had no local connection even though he was born in Leicester. He said in Loughborough there is literally no support and if then only two days a week. Therefore he came back to Leicester.

“The Council thinks we are all slackers”

Here is the short interview:

England is one of the richest countries in the world. It is really difficult to believe that there are people living on the street at all. One gets the impression that England is actually a poor country. The inequality in the distribution of wealth is breathtaking. Everyone seems to get used to the ‘austerity mantra’ of the Tory government without even questioning it. If England is really one of the richest nations in the world where then has all the money gone one may ask. Who is accumulating all the wealth? Why is it not more equally distributed? The answer is a political one and would go beyond the limits of this blog post.

The Council sees us as slackers. We choose to live on the street. – Jim

Shoppers ignore the homeless

The other day I took part in a podcast at Leicester DMU along with John Coster and Rob Watson. This first podcast of 2018 was well-arranged and equipped with four microphones, headphones and a professional audio recorder in a kind of roundtable discussion. The theme among others was also homelessness. The setup was non-threatening and relaxed and I look forward to further sessions and even to host a roundtable discussion like this in the near future.

The entrance was blocked off by a second door

What was interesting in our roundtable podcast was that one should be careful with terminology, instead of the homeless it would be better to use the term ‘homeless people or persons or even speak of the homeless community.

At the end of my conversation with Peter, he said that the council thinks we are all slackers. I had to look up the word in a dictionary although I had a good feeling for what it meant, and no, one cannot say this or generalize. In fact, I found most homeless people on the street are quite intelligent, articulate and with a good degree of humility too. Furthermore, I found little evidence of alcohol abuse, although there is a group of older homeless persons who clearly struggle with alcohol, however, they are in the minority.

Often people argue that ‘the homeless’ are illegal immigrants and that Brexit is the answer to it. Nothing could be further from the truth. The majority are young English men who have, due to unfortunate circumstances, fallen to the level of sofa-surfing and living on the street. The inconvenient truth is that homelessness can actually affect anyone. Circumstances in one’s life can change and one can end up on someone else’s sofa or even on the street. People are afraid to even think of this and this is why they are hesitant to engage in the discussion around homelessness.

Further Reading: