More than 80,000 homeless-children in the UK face a bleak Christmas this year.
Back in January 2013 I wrote a post called ”Empty Homes and the Planning Minister” which revealed that in 2012 there were approximately 710,000 homes standing empty across the UK. So it was quite a shock to the system when I recently read a report by the homeless charity Shelter, which stated that more than 80,000 homeless-children this year are facing Christmas in temporary accommodation.
As the government launches the second phase of its “Help to Buy Scheme” and property professionals and economists warn us about creating another property bubble, it is easy to view UK poverty as an illusion and that the homeless people out there have made a lifestyle choice.
You could be forgiven for latching on to the stereo-typical images of the poor as people who are exploiting the system by living an easy life on benefits, like the single mother of four children from four different absent fathers, photographed in her squalid living room with her latest new born, and whose only means of survival is the £700 a month she gets in child benefit and other assistance.
The problem is of course this is the image the press like to portray of the poor, it sells newspapers. Obviously these people do exist and seem to take great pleasure in flaunting themselves on shows such as Jeremy Kyle, but in the majority of cases, the reality is often somewhat different.
The cases of families driven towards poverty and homelessness by unforeseen circumstances often go unreported. But the fact is many normal, everyday, suburban working families can, while the salary is coming in, make mistakes and bad choices that could ultimately, if left unchecked, result in redundancy, repossession, bankruptcy and finally homelessness.
The problem is of course that in those situations a homeless family usually includes homeless-children.
And of course once a family finds itself homeless the result can often be a downward spiral. Children are resilient, but constantly moving with children from shelter to shelter will soon wear parents down, not to mention the stigma attached to being homeless. Once a family is of no fixed abode, often doors will close to jobs, bank accounts, credit and all the other resources that most of us take for granted.
Although the government tells us there aren’t enough properties for those on a lower income or first time buyers, which means we need to build more, the fact is the UK is the seventh richest country in the world. A country with approximately 710,000 properties standing empty, of which it is estimated 250,000 are classed as long term empty, which means they have been unoccupied for six months or more.
On top of that housing minister Kris Hopkins said recently
“We’ve given councils nearly £1bn to tackle homelessness and to support people affected by the welfare reforms, so I am very clear that they should be fully able to meet their legal responsibility,”
All this and still more than 80,000 homeless-children in the UK are facing a bleak Christmas this year.
Do they deserve it, is it their fault. The shame of poverty is all of ours to share, all year round.
Homelessness is a big problem in the UK one which needs addressing rather than ignoring. The problem is that just like those homeless soldiers living on the street, or the homeless-children and their families moving from shelter to shelter; to most of us the problem is invisible.