What happened on the 16th of February, where a Direct Line staff member in Leeds chucked cold water onto 3 homeless people sleeping near their building, is what we can expect from the age old rhetoric of capitalism that the poor are poor because of ‘choice’ or ‘bad decisions’ or because of alcoholism or drug taking which is then depicted as a choice.
Amy Cousens, Leeds Socialist Party
There have been allegations that one of the homeless people urinated on the wall and a staff member cleaned the wall with water and it went into their sleeping area. In Leeds, every city centre toilet with public access are inside various building, often ones that are not open overnight. Across the country there have been mass closures of public toilets, leaving those without homes with little option to urinate in public.
The contempt for homeless people in cities is well documented, we saw this with the London doorway spikes and being shunned away from expensive shopping areas.
This anti poor, anti-working class rhetoric is spouted at the same time as our government cuts benefits, services, social care, social housing, health care etc. They spout homelessness as a choice at the same time as workers face real-time pay cuts, because of wages not rising with inflation. Our current system of cuts, of welfare sanctions, of the tightening on requirements to access services, inherently creates homelessness.
Social mobility research tells us that if you are born poor you are most likely to stay poor, the same is true for people born into wealth. This highlights that poverty is created by social forces and not individual decisions.
This system of austerity and capitalism creates poverty, yet its purveyors in the government and the media seek to point the finger at the poor and working class, because if our conditions are our own fault then they remove themselves of the responsibility of creating real social programmes to tackle the social problem of inequality.
Homeless people do not choose to be homeless. Many are there because of marital or family breakdowns and their not being adequate or any social support and so, without supportive family or friends, there is no social net, you are on the streets. Since the Tories came to power in 2010, homelessness has doubled across the UK. Women, teens and the LGBT community are disproportionately represented amongst the homeless.
Many, particularly women are there because of domestic violence. Domestic violence services have been attacked financially through cuts since the Blair government. For a long time women fleeing violence have found themselves sofa surfing or on the streets because of the lack of social nets for women. I could go on and on with these examples.
The point is becoming homeless is actually easy. You could do exactly as you are told, go to school, get an education, keep your head down and still you can end up homeless. Because social conditions under capitalism fundamentally do not work in favour of the working classes, in this society meritocracy is a myth.
The Socialist Party recognises that the social conditions capitalism creates exacerbates poverty and that is why we demand a society that works for the 99% and not just the wealthy elite.
We therefore demand a programme of social housing, to renovate the council housing that is being left empty and to build more social housing. We demand an end to housing plots being sold to property developers who make low quality housing and sell them for high prices. We call for rent controls to end to gentrification of cities where working people are being driven further out of cities because of soaring house and rent prices.
We demand a £10 an hour minimum wage as a start to paying workers a real living wage.
We demand an end to all council cuts and for councils to invest in services that so provide support and social security.
We demand the re-nationalisation of the banks, the transport industry and of the energy companies under democratic workers control. There is the wealth in society to develop newer, better and more environmentally friendly technologies and our fundamental needs should not be dictated by profit. Money should go back into industries and into workers pay.
We stand in solidarity with those homeless people who were cruelly treated by Direct Line staff member and indeed all those in need of a decent, affordable home.