By Ineke Poultney at Inkyworld:
I am slowly starting to think of life as a game of “Snakes and Ladders” – but with moveable “Snakes” and moveable “Ladders”. In this version of the game the “Snakes” have a habit of either slithering off with the “Ladders” or rendering them completely useless. (Usually by either breaking a few rungs or adding a couple of dozen rungs just when you think you have reached the top.)
The “Counters” (as in you and me)? Well, we just do the best we can to survive, avoiding the snakes and trying to reach the mythical tops of the ladders. If we are very lucky (or – at worst – corrupt) we can reach the top and enjoy the profits or rewards it brings.
For us mere Mortals who are dependent on the whims of others to help us along in our lives – but do not want to play the same corrupt games as everybody else – life can get pretty tough at times.
Did you know it could be relatively easy to ensure that longterm homelessness doesn’t actually exist? Did you also know we would all need to play our part in order for that to happen?
I admit it would take a few major changes and shifts in policy (both “political” and “ethical”) – as well as an end to that particularly virulent disease known as “NIMBY”ism (or Not In My Backyard).
We would need five things to happen;
The first of which being – make that cliched phrase “a new kind of Politics” a reality instead of merely a soundbite when it gets to Election season.
Forget the percieved problems with immigration, the unemployed, and the disabled for a minute.
I happen to think that the major problem is that there is not one politician left in existence who can honestly claim to have any relationship with the real world outside either their Political Chambers (Houses of Parliament, Council Offices, Town Halls, etc) or their Political Parties. Politics nowadays seems to be run on a “Pay Per Policy” basis – as in the policies which give the biggest payoffs in terms of either popularity within their own Political Parties or the policies which will grab the most headlines (good or bad) will win.
In an ideal world we would have Politicians who have experience of the world as people like you and me know it. (Of course, if you live in a Mansion with Trust-funds coming out of your ears and a few million pounds in the bank, you will wonder what I am talking about. Good luck to you – most of us in the “real world” as I know it do not live like that.)
Politics would be run on “Ethics” and we would really be “all in this together” – the rich would suffer in the same way as the poor are now. The “feel good factor” would depend on the majority of people actually having hope and the ability to achieve the same as the “elite” minority.
Next – I would force Bankers and other highly paid people (unless their life is in danger as a result of their jobs) to surrender their eligibility for bonuses. In fact, I would go further than that. I would impose a maximum cap on personal take home pay and wealth. The excess I would use to pay for policies which would benefit the poorest and marginalised in society – ie, job creation, accommodation building, etc.
Thirdly – I would cap Private Rents for homes to a fraction of the price of Mortgages. Nowadays, it is almost more expensive to rent a private property than it is to actually buy one (and that includes Mortgage repayments). I would also give priority to the people on Social Security when it comes to renting the private homes out. None of this “No Housing Benefit Claimants allowed” nonsense. (Are we really going back to the times of “No Coloureds, No Irish, etc, Allowed” from the 1960’s and 1970’s – but with Housing Benefit Claimants???). In conjunction with that I would force the landlords to abide by the legal rules for the upkeep of their rented accommodation – with costodial sentences for Landlords who repeatedly force people to live in draughty, damp homes..
Fourthly – I would build more accommodation for humans. However, this would have major strings attached.
I would ensure there was a mix of accommodation with a mix of humans in it. What I mean is – I couldn’t care less if it is a three bedroomed house in an estate in a “posh” area or a stack of containers which have been modified in order for people to live in them – there will be no “ghetto-isation” allowed. If you are going to put all the previously homeless people in one place whilst the rest of the world lives somewhere else you are never going to be able to reintegrate them in the rest of society. We need a proper mix of people to help everybody grow and succeed.
I would also ensure that the accommodation is suitable for both able-bodied people and disabled people to live in.
At a push I would even go as far as one project in Utah in the United States, and give the previously homeless person a home free of charge for life. That would remove the cost of the never-ending circle of homelessness which some people get into.
Fifthly (and finally) – I would put into place services to help people when they start to get into difficulty. In the unfortunate instances of someone actually finding themself without a roof over their head and in need of support to get back on their feet I would provide it free of charge for as long as the person needs it. No means testing, no eligibility criteria to meet which sets the limit so low that hardly anybody would qualify. If you are considered to be in need of support to get back on your feet (be it for Mental Health issues, Alcohol dependency issues, Drug addiction issues, etc) you will get it the minute you ask for it or it is deemed necessary by a professional.
This would do away with arbitary limits and moving goalposts when it comes to removing the Homeless off the streets and out of view.
However, I understand that there is no Political will either in Government or in the Councils to put my policies into practice – They would say they cost too much and would take too long to implement.
The real question we should ask ourselves is – what is so good about the length of time someone spends being homeless and the costs associated with getting them back into a stable life? Especially when – with a few changes in policy – we can get rid of longterm homelessness forever
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