Category Archives: Housing and Homelessness

Fixing Poverty Is Simple: Poor People Need More Money and Homeless People Need Homes


In the UK today the poor are a commodity and poverty is big business.  That’s why the homelessness industry can afford conferences in luxury hotels, with slap up meals and drinks receptions.  It’s why charity chief executives earn such eye-watering sums, or business empires like the Big Issue can be built beneath a charity facade.  And these are the fuckers who are supposed to be helping.  Alongside them lie the vultures of the welfare-to-work companies like Serco and G4S – a £20 billion industry designed to punish the poor with benefit sanctions and forced work schemes.

At no point in this elaborate system of so-called support, incentives and sanctions will the people who are poor be given what they need – which is more money.  In fact much of the help is designed to do the opposite as it attempts to  create behavior change by inflicting more poverty.  Benfits are cut to ‘incentivise’ people to find a job whilst charities run advertising campains further stigmatising beggars to encourage them not to be homeless.  Other anti-poverty organisations demand that the price of cheap alcohol is raised to stop people being alcoholics and call for bans on handing out free food to make life difficult for those on the streets.  As these demands grow ever more shrill, the number of genuinely affordable homes and jobs that pay an adequate income shrink, alongside already meagre benefit payments. Yet because of the wonderful support the poor are offered – and all that money being spent – when people keep getting poorer then frankly, even most charity bosses think, it’s probably their own fault.

It is fucking grotesque.  What poor people need is more money and what homeless people need is homes.  As well as being glaringly obvious, this is also what the evidence shows.  A study was featured in the Washington Post this week which tracked the personalities of 1,420 low income children in North Carolina over a period of 20 years.  By pure chance during this period about a quarter of the children’s families received a windfall due to being part of a Native American tribe whose land had been used to host a casino.  This led to the families receiving annual payments of around $4000 and meant that the researchers could measure the impact of this small rise in income on the children’s personalities.  The results were clear – according to the researchers “there are large beneficial effects of improved household financial wellbeing on children’s emotional and behavioral health and positive personality trait development.”

The study also found that relationships between parents improved, family arguments decreased, and siginifcantly parents who had more money tended to use drugs and alcohol less.

Back in the UK, in 2010 the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, an anti-poverty think tank, carried out an experiment with some of the ‘hardest to help’ rough sleepers.  What they did was simple; they identified 15 people who had been sleeping on the streets for a minimum of fours years, they asked them what they needed and then they bought it for them.  Seven of the original fifteen had moved into stable accommodation when the project was evaluated with two more making plans to pove off the streets.  Some participants reported improved mental and physical health, and several said their drinking had reduced.  Three people started educational courses whilst the one individual involved who had a serious drug problem had begun treatment and was on a methadone programme.  Despite the success of this approach it has not been adopted by the UK’s homelessness industry.

Something else which remains largely ignored in UK housing policy is the success of the Housing First scheme at reducing homelessness in the US.   This model simply acknowledges that homeless people need to be given a home before other issues such as substance misuse, unemployment or mental health are addressed.  This approach has been successful in cutting homelessness amongst US army veterans by 30%.  A small pilot project is now being carried out along these lines in the UK, but don’t expect significant change yet.  Much of the homelessness industry still believes that homeless people need to be somehow ‘fixed’ with an approach that dangles the possibility of secure housing at some distant point in the future as a reward for good behavior whilst arresting people in the present if they sleep rough in city centres.

This weekend World Homeless Action Day will feature two events in the UK aiming to promote the Housing First model and protest against the growing criminalisation of homeless people.  In Manchester campaigners are organising a sleep out on Saturday night (10 October) to raise awareness of the problems facing homeless people in the city.  In London there will be speakers and music outside Euston Station on the same night before activists head out on mass into the city to distribute food and supplies to the homeless.  Other events are also planned, please share the facebook page, spread the word and come if you can.

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A Tale of Two Cities. How London Is More Divided Than Ever Before.

simon-jenkinsRarely has London been so divided.  The fracture in UK politics – where the Tories are despised in the North, Scotland and Wales but rule anyway – cuts through the heart of the capital city.  Here the poor and the rich often live alongside each other, and walk the same streets, but they might as well be in different cities.  And whilst those with nothing cannot fail to notice the gleaming new skyscrapers, the wealthy cannot the see the lives of the poor.  We are just tenants to them, or low paid skivvies, here to clean up their shit and fatten their wallets.  Not worth talking to, or thinking too much about.

So it is no surprise at all that a fucking toff like Simon Jenkins – ex-public school then Oxbridge of course, and now a columnist for both the Evening Standard and The Guardian – should be so blisteringly out of touch that he can declare that London’s housing crisis is a myth.  That’s all you need to know by the way, you don’t have to read his shit.  Jenkins, who lives in a plush Kensington & Chelsea house and reportedly owns another property, thinks everything’s just fine and the poor should stop whining and live in sheds.  Or move to Salford where that £65,000 they’ve probably got kicking around in a savings account somewhere will buy them a home.  Or some such bollocks.

To the pampered rich, money doesn’t run out and poverty is really beyond their comprehension.  They have no knowledge of the small, but never ending depravations that fill up the lives of the poor.  They have no way of imagining what’s it’s like to be sucked dry of what little you have by pre-pay electric metres, benefit sanctions, travel costs, loan sharks or rent increases.  They have never experienced the debilitating panic that devours the body and mind when you receive an eviction notice, or your hours are cut, or you get a brown letter from the DWP calling you in for a benefit assessment.  If the rich are hungry they eat, if they are cold they put the heating on, and if their kids need shoes they buy them some, without a second thought.

In the absence of any real experience of how many people live, all the privileged like Jenkins have to go on is cold statistics.  That’s why he says the only priority for housing policy should be addressing the 60,000 families in temporary accommodation, with everybody else abandoned to market forces.  He probably doesn’t even know that those 60,000 families only represent a fraction of the true number of homeless people.  It doesn’t even include people living on the street, or in fact anyone at all without chldren unless they have a significant health condition.  Neither does it consider the hundreds of thousands of kids growing up in social housing who will not be able to afford to live in London when they are old.  Or the growing number of people in their 40s and 50s who are renting privately and will never know what it is like to have a secure place to live – and who face a bleak future in retirement when they are dependent on Housing Benefit to pay the rent.  Whilst every measure of homelessness is rising sharply, it is not just those without a roof who are suffering from the housing crisis.

When something directly affects the rich however, even in the most trivial way, we never fucking stop hearing about it.  In 2013 Jenkins wrote a breath-taking piece for the Evening Standard declaring that the only real housing crisis in London was that the opulent West London streets he lives in are becoming a ‘peculiar’  and ‘eerie’ due to the number of homes bought as investments and left empty.  This is a terrible thing whines Jenkins, whilst condemning everyone else’s housing concerns as hysterical.  After all you can still buy a flat in Camden for less than £300,000.  Except you can’t.

London is now two cities, a fantasy world for the rich and an economic torture chamber for the poor.  And someone living in a fantasy can never understand the rage of those being quietly exploited, or expelled.  Just look at the acres of newsprint devoted to some paint on a cereal cafe whilst the desperate stories of social cleansing go almost untold.  It’s news when the powerless fight back but  only when there is a minor inconvenience to the cosseted business class.  They are so astounded by our anger that they think it’s unreasonable.  Why don’t we just have a crêpe and a latte or something and calm down.  Or spend a fiver on a bowl of cereal.  For heaven’s sake poor people, you might spoil Disneyland.  Indeed we fucking might.   In fact we intend to.

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Begging Is A Lifestyle Choice Says Leeds Councillor As Homelessness Charities Launch The Nastiest Campaign Yet


Leeds City Council have teamed up with the police and so-called charities, to come up with the nastiest campaign yet aimed at discouraging the public from giving a bit of spare change to homeless people.

The above poster has been placed at key sites across the city warning people not to give money to beggars because it may help fuel their addictions.  As ever the homelessness industry demands that people give the money to them instead so they can spend it on drink soaked conferences in posh hotels that cost £700 quid a ticket.

No thought at all seems to have been given about how this campaign will further stigmatise homeless people who already often face abuse and even violence from some members of the public. Those attacks will now be more likely as homeless people are smeared as addicts or drunks by the very organisations that claim to be on their side.  The dehumanisation of the very poorest is no longer just coming from the pages of the right wing press.

The truth is that the homelessness industry’s own figures show that only around half of street homeless people have a drink or drug problem.  And even these people still need to eat.  All that campaigns like these achieve – if they are successful – is that homeless people who do have drug or alcohol dependencies are forced to beg for longer.  No-one is going to give up smack because some bunch of fucking idiots have put a few posters on the walls after all.  Meanwhile those forced to beg because their benefits have been sanctioned are left to go hungry.  But then this is just a lifestyle choice according to Leeds Labour Councillor Mark Dobson.

What people in poverty need is more money, however it comes   There is plenty of research which shows this.  Yet this research is repeatedly ignored, not just by politicians obsessed with cutting benefits, but also by charities whose bosses are currently doing very well out of poverty and homelessness.  To attempt to smear and impoverish one of the most marginalised groups in society with campaigns like this is bad enough.  To do it to further line the pockets of overpaid charity chief executives is beneath contempt.

This is far from the first initiative aimed at stopping the public helping homeless people directly, but it is one of the most of unpleasant.  Luckily it has been a dismal failure, with just £50 raised according to the justgiving website. The people of Leeds have shown they are better than this.  It’s time these organisations realise that if they continue to attack homeless people then they won’t see a fucking penny of our money.  Give a beggar a quid instead.  At least you know it won’t be spent on campaigns like this.

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Over 90,000 Children Now In Temporary Accommodation As The Homelessness Epidemic Gets Even Worse

homeless-march1There are now over 90,000 children living in temporary accommodation according to the latest official statistics – a rise of over 15% in just one year.

The number of these families living in B&Bs – which usually just means one room, often with shared facilities – has leapt by a shocking 35% compared to a year earlier.  990 of these families had been living in this kind of accommodation for over six weeks, over double the number from the same period last year.

Every measure of homelessness has risen according to the latest statistics, with 13,520 households accepted as homeless by Local Authorities between January and March 2015, a jump of 8% on a year earler.

The main reason for families becoming homeless was the loss of an assured tenancy with a private sector landlord.  Soaring rents, stagnant wages and shrinking benefits – combined with a barely regulated private rental sector where landlords can evict on a whim – is driving the homelessness epidemic as many people can simply no longer afford to pay their rent.

This week’s figures only represent a very small sample of the true number of homeless people in the UK.  Only those legally eligible for help from local authorites are included, which in practice means only those with children, significant disabilities or health problems and people over pensionable age.  Homelessness charities have warned that this measure only shows the tip of the iceberg of even these groups as recent changes to the law mean families fobbed off into insecure private rented accommodation by councils are no longer included in the figures.

A recent report found that rents have risen by 10% in the last year, and that’s across the UK, not just in London.  George Osborne has already pegged rises in Housing Benefits at just 1%.  The impacts of the Bedroom Tax and first Benefit Cap have still not been fully felt as local authorities have used Discretionary Housing Payments to top up Housing Benefits.  These payments will soon come to an end.  The number of houses built at a social rent, meaning they are genuinely affordable to low income families, fell to the lowest level in the history of council housing in 2013/14.

A perfect storm has already been created and we have not yet seen anything like the worst of it.  The full impact of Iain Duncan Smith’s bungled welfare reforms have not yet been fully felt according to managers of homelessness services in local councils when questioned by homelessness charities last year (PDF).

But even this will just be the beginning.  The government have already pledged a lower Benefit Cap, which will leave almost the entire private rented sector in the south of England unaffordable for out of work families.  Tens of thousands of people in social housing will also be affected, particularly larger families who will have nowhere they can afford to go.  Osbourne is also likely to scrap housing benefit completely for those under 21, whilst a mass sell off of housing association properties is also on the cards.  And that’s just what we know about.  Billions more is set to be cut from the social security budget, and however the Chancellor does that it will mean many people can no longer afford to stay in their home.

Disabled People Against Cuts have already called a protest outside next week’s budget.  Everyone who cares about having somewhere to live over the next few years should join them and say #balls2thebudget.  Please join, share and tweet the facebook page for the event:

You can read the latest homelessness statistics at:

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Shameless: Charity Bosses To Gather In Luxury Hotel For £715 Homelessness Conference

£715 will pay for a room for a charity chief executive in a top hotel for just one night.  Please give generously.

Sponsor a room. Just £715 will pay for for a charity chief executive to stay in a top hotel for two nights. Please give generously. You fucking mug.

Charity Chief Executives and so-called housing experts are gearing up for this year’s homelessness industry conference which is due to be held at a four star hotel with ticket prices as high as £715!

Next month’s Under One Roof conference is organised by charity umbrella body Homeless Link and provides a chance for homelessness experts to talk about homeless people without any actual homeless people being present.  This year’s swanky bash is being held at the Hinckley Island Hotel in Leicestershire where according to Homeless Link  “Delegates staying overnight are also entitled to complimentary use of the leisure club facilities, which include a heated indoor swimming pool, fully equipped gym, sauna, spa, steam room and solarium.”

Were somebody who is homeless wishing to access this event they would be forced to pay the non-member rate of £320 just for one day, and they don’t even get to stay in the hotel for that.  For the entire two days, plus accommodation, then the bill rises to over £700 – around ten times  the weekly Jobseeker’s Allowance payment many homeless people survive on.  Homelessless charities who run hostels evict residents for running up smaller service charge arrears than that every day of the week.

When not swanning around by the pool, or enjoying the promised slap up meal, delegates to this year’s conference will attend workshops held by ‘industry experts’.  Experts like Jeremy ‘send ’em back’ Swain of charity Thamesreach who will lead a discussion on whether it is ‘counter-productive’ to carry on working with destitute migrants.

Other hot topics will include, predictably, fundraising, crowdsourcing, and “how to pool resources to enable you to bid for contracts that would otherwise be out of reach”.  Those four star hotel bills won’t pay themselves you know.

It will not be front line homelessness workers attending this event of course, but middle managers, ‘professionals’ and charity bosses – the kind of people who could afford to pay for their own fucking hotel.  Instead well meaning charity donors, homeless hostel residents and of course tax payers, will fund this lavish and drink-soaked skive.  And drink-soaked it will be, after the arduous day of workshops the organisers promise a drinks reception, followed by a conference dinner – with entertainment provided by a top magician (perhaps he can magic up some fucking housing) – and then another drinks reception.  These are the same charities that run nasty campaigns telling people not to give money to homeless beggars because they will only spend it on booze or drugs.  Give your spare change to a homelessness charity instead they say, so highly paid Chief Executives can spend it on fine wine, magicians  and posh hotels.

Apologies for the slow down in posts.  Things might remain a bit sporadic here until September when a shit storm is coming.

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We Deserve Queen’s Award For Industry Says Housing Boss Currently Evicting The Sweet’s Way Families

sweetsway1Housing activists fighting evictions are ‘ludicrous’ and ‘we shouldn’t worry too much about them’ say out of touch housing association bosses defending regeneration schemes which are forcing people out of their homes.

The astonishing comments form part of a feature on London’s growing housing movement which Inside Housing published on their website last week.  The largely positive piece highlighted the anger created by the desperate shortage of social housing in the capital and told the stories of the tenants, homeless people, squatters and frontline housing workers who are fighting back.

Unfortunately it also featured outbursts from whining housing association bosses who complain that social media means that they are now being held accountable for the things that they do.  It’s not fair they say, with the boss of  Notting Hill Housing Association, Kate Davies, even claiming they deserve a ‘pat on the back’ and the ‘Queen’s award for industry’ for all their tireless work decanting and evicting families from their homes.

Davies is in charge of the Sweet’s Way housing estate in Barnet where, as Inside Housing point out, 142 former military homes now mostly containing low income families are being replaced by a redevelopment in which just 59 new properties will be ‘affordable’.  And affordable means rents that could be as high as 80% of those in the private sector, meaning few can really afford them.  None of the new homes built will be available for ‘social rent’, the kind of low but still substantial rents that used to be normal in housing association and council properties.  The current residents who are set to lose their homes have launched a furious fight back but Davies implies she doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about.  She must think we’re fucking idiots.

Simon Dow, boss of the Guinness Partnership, is equally unrepentent.  He concedes his organisation has some responsibility to explain to current tenants ‘where they fit into’ regeneration plans – yet the reality, and problem, is that many don’t fit into these plans at all, such as the Guiness tenants on the Loughborough Estate in Brixton who are facing imminent eviction.  But Dow says he is ‘less interested’ in the views of those not from the estate, meaning the housing campaigners who have worked alongside those facing the loss of their homes to try and stall and prevent evictions.  It is this kind of social solidarity that concerns Dow who concludes that if this militancy amongst tenants spreads throughout the sector then they might have to worry about whether what they are doing is a good idea.

And one of the things they are doing is paying themselves huge sums of money.  In 2012/13 Simon Dow was paid over a quarter of a million pounds.  You read that right – a quarter of a fucking million pounds.  Enough to buy a new home every year.  Kate Davies, of the Notting Hill Housing Association was paid just short of £200,000.  Is it any wonder that they are so out of touch and aloof from the people they are paid with both tax payer’s and tenant’s money to house?

If Davies and Dow actually lived on the estates they are currently demolishing then they might have some understanding of the utter devastation that eviction, homelessness or forced relocation can cause to the lives of already struggling families.  They might realise that one fucking eviction is one too many, and that the chronic lack of social housing means the situation is now at breaking point.  Instead they whinge about government funding cuts whilst still drawing huge wages and complain about tenants being too uppity and not understanding the challenges poor housing bosses face.  Their only glimmer of dissent has been to team up with the other villains in this story – property developers – to join the Homes for Britain campaign, a shoddy front aiming to use the housing crisis as an excuse to build more houses for rich people.

If you find yourself calling riot police on housing campaigners, or using bailiffs to violently evict families from their homes, then you are on the wrong fucking side.  A five year could could tell you that.  The kids currently living in shitty temporary accommodation miles from friends and families know that.  There is no room for argument.  If housing association bosses really don’t like what the government is doing then good, it’s time they did something about it.  Whether that means getting out on the streets, or not co-operating, or even just paying themselves a bit less and paying a few people’s bedroom tax instead, is for them to decide.  Or perhaps they could get out of the way altogether, and let tenants, not highly paid bureacrats, manage the homes and communities they live in.

Visit the Radical Housing Network’s event calendar for details of upcoming protests, action and meetings and keep July 11th free for when Class War’s anti-gentrification Fuck Parade takes to the streets of Camden.

Class War will also be out on the streets tomorrow (Wednesday 27th May) on the state opening of Parliament.  Meet at 11am prompt in Parliament Square.  Later in the day the National Coalition against Fees and Cuts have called a march from 5pm – assemble in Trafalgar Square.

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And The Minister For Housing Is … A Fucking Landlord

landlord-jailedThe interests of tenants and landlords are in direct opposition.  Tenants need secure homes with low rents and which are well maintained.  Landlords however want to charge the highest possible rent for the least possible work and be able to throw a tenant out of their home the second they get a better offer.

This means that you cannot claim to support both tenant’s rights and landlord’s profits.  You have to pick a side.  And we know which side the new Housing Minister Brandon Lewis is on because the register of MP’s interests tells us.  He’s a fucking landlord.

Lewis was first appointed as Minister of Housing in June 2014, replacing parliament’s nastiest, slimiest MP Kris Hopkins.  He was re-appointed by David Cameron last week where he wil continue his work ensuring the UK has one of the most expensive and least regulated private rental sectors in the world.

One of his first moves has been to introduce legislation banning local authorities from introducing licencing schemes for landlords – such as the one recently developed by Liverpool Council.  In future any council which wants to introduce a scheme that affects more than 20% of privately rented homes will be forced to go crawling to central government for permission.

It is astonishing that you need a licence to drive a mini-cab, open a pub or work as a security guard, yet any old crook can set themselves up as a landlord.  The only entry requirement is money.  These are bastards who have a key to our homes, and whose actions, or lack of action can devastate our health and even place our lives at risk.  Is it any wonder that landlord abuse, from sexual harassment, to violence, to illegal eviction to simple neglect, is rampant in the UK?

According to Housing Minister Brandon Lewis only a small minority of landlords are ‘rogue operators’.  Yet almost anyone who has rented privately will have tales to tell of bullying, theft, discrimination, harassment and often criminal negligence.  Even landlords who remain within the law can hike rents, evict without reason or charge eye-watering fees and deposits which exclude many people from any housing at all.   The private rental sector is broken beyond repair and Lewis has no plans to change that.  In fact he intends to continue making money from it.

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