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Middle Class Homelessness on the Rise?

Posted on the 31 August 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Middle class homelessness on the rise?

Homeless people, Trafalgar Square. Photocredit: Garryknight http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/5351952856/sizes/z/in/photostream/

Are the middle classes safe? A report by academics from the University of York and Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, has announced that middle class people may be more likely to become homeless. The report was commissioned by Crisis, the homeless charity.

Why, you may ask? Well it’s all to do with the lingering effects of this economic downturn, as well as deep – nay, draconian – cuts to welfare and benefits system reforms. The government’s new house building regime is predicted to be a failure, too, with fewer than 50,000 new houses expected by 2015 – far short of the 80,000 needed to meet targets. More than 630,000 households are reported as “overcrowded”, with families living in one room, known as “the hidden homeless”. The Department of Communities and Local Government was, however, bullish. The Daily Telegraph quoted a spokesman: the building program would “exceed expectations and deliver up to 170,000 affordable homes by 2015.”

The report also stated that there will be a significant rise in the number of people forced to sleep rough. There’s already been a 10 per cent rise since last year in the number of homeless people, with 44,160 placed into social housing. The Guardian pointed out that over half of London’s street sleepers are migrants from eastern Europe. Meanwhile, figures from The National Housing Federation show that home-owning figures will fall to levels not seen since the 1980s, to 63.8 per cent.

“The government must listen and change course before this flow of homeless people becomes a flood,” warned Leslie Morphy, Crisis’s chief executive.

The Department for Work and Pensions told Channel 4 News that the government’s welfare reforms are “about restoring fairness and sense to a system that has spiralled out of control and left communities trapped in a cycle of benefit dependency. We will support those who can work into work and make sure it pays to do so. Universal credit will lift almost one million people, including 350,000 children, out of poverty and restore the welfare system to its original purpose.”

“Any significant reduction of the welfare safety net in the UK as a result of Coalition reforms may, of course, bring the scenario of middle class homelessness that much closer,” said the Crisis report.

  • No more Waitrose? Jackie Long on Channel 4 wrote a special report. She used Ian, a trained lawyer and ex-submariner, as a case study. He now lives in a tent: “The sum total of my monthly income at the moment from my three part-time jobs bring in a grand total of about £600 a month and the rent in the flat is £970 and you don’t need a PhD in mathematics to work out that’s not sustainable.” A new type of homeless person is emerging. Out of 200 homeless organisations, 66 percent have reported a rise in numbers. There are people higher up the social scale, who’ve been used to working but who have sufferred in the recession. Two thirds of homeless charities say that goverment figures “significantly understimate” the number of rough sleepers. And the situation will only get worse, as changes to benefits see safety nets removed.
  • Spare some change? Readers’ comments on the story were robust. theonionmurders on The Guardian said, ”Spare a bit change for my kid’s private school fees Guv’nor?”, whilst Andrew Campbell on The Daily Telegraph said that “John Redwood reports this morning that there ‘were 738,414 empty homes in the UK in 2010′. These people don’t need to be homeless, the government could house them if it had the will to do so.”
  • Across the pond. It’s a problem in America, too, said Joel John Roberts on The Huffington Post. The worst economic conditions since the Great Depression are changing the face of homelessness. “Our homeless neighbors are just like us. Well, many of them.” There have been executives, graduates, families – all homeless. Songwriter Nick Ashford, who wrote songs for Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye, was once homeless. How many “other geniuses are roaming the streets of America?”

More on housing, generally…

  • Move to Melbourne!
  • Homeless man’s golden voice

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