I finally got around to watching a TV documentary I'd recorded two months ago. It was about people in 'unsuitable' housing - 'unsuitable' meaning 'really needs a lot of work done on it or being knocked down and rebuilt'.
A photographer had taken pictures of people living in slums in various cities fifty years ago. The premise of the programme was that they went looking for people who'd been photographed and found out how they were and where they were living now. They found about half a dozen of the now grown children. They also followed another couple of families.
Too many of the 'original' children were still living in poor accommodation. Not as bad as their childhood slum homes, but pretty bad. Two of the families were 'settled' in single rooms - seven or so people (parents, teens, children, baby) in one large room!
Two other people, a mother and her wheelchair-bound teenage son, had been housed, but far from their family and friends. Consequently they were alone in their new area. The house was actually quite nice-looking. Being away from their 'support network' of family and friends wasn't. At all.
I'd watched another documentary about homelessness a while back. Families, a couple with small children, a woman with a baby - all were looking for a house to make into a home. They went to their local councils, which was no help at all; they couldn't even get onto the housing waiting lists. In fact the council Housing Department workers shown seemed to be mainly looking for reasons, or excuses, so that they could say that people didn't 'qualify' for housing assistance from the council!
Trouble is far too many councils just don't have the housing stock. Mrs Thatcher instituted the 'Right to Buy' for council tenants, and many did just that. Most of the better council houses are now privately owned.
Then councils haven't been building council houses to replace those being sold. For whatever reason. Having their funding squeezed by central government being the most recent.
So people have to go to private landlords. Now there are good private landlord, S has one. But too many private landlords seem to be in it just to collect the rents. They don't maintain their properties. They don't get in pest control operatives to remove the mice/rats/cockroaches or whatever. They don't really bother about maintaining gas or electrical appliances.
Should a tenant have the temerity to approach the Authorities about various things - which they are entitled to do, and the Authorities serve 'Notices to ***' on the landlords, the next thing tenants know is that they've been served Notices to Quit.
I am ANGRY! What kind of society are we if we still allow our poorest to live in substandard accommodation/ whole families in single rooms? What kind of society allows landlords to collect the rent and leave tenants in substandard accommodation, then evict tenants who dare to try to get something done? What kind of people are we? What kind of person am I?
I am also confused. I mean, if you are in difficulties - financial/housing/whatever, why go on having more children? It's not as if contraception isn't available after all. And why smoke? Why burn what little money you may have to make your already precarious health worse?
As for drinking (alcohol), well, I can see how wanting to 'escape' one's awful situation would appeal. And drugs of various kinds are apparently so freely available, offering their form of 'escape' - which in reality is a far worse prison. I just wonder where people who are apparently so poor find the money for such things. Things which will only make them poorer.
I can also see how being continually hungry, poor and in poor housing would beat you down and flatten even the most intrepid spirit. Particularly if almost every time you tried to 'better' yourself you only got knocked back.
Then there's gambling. Yes, I realise how the lure of Winning might entice. But do people not think straight at all? Surely the cost of the gambling far outweighs any 'winnings'. The first rule of gambling being 'The House Always Wins' and all that.
I mean, you could spend £1 per week on a National Lottery ticket (are they still £1?) Or you could keep the £1 and by the end of the year you'd definitely be £52 pounds up. Of course, you'd have spent that on trying to stay alive in the meantime, but do you see what I mean, Dear Reader?
I suppose it all depends on whether you have an 'addictive' nature or not. If you do, and are poor, your outlook is even poorer. If you have family as well . . . Poor them!
In all, the view of the documentary maker was that most people were better housed than fifty years ago. The slums have largely gone. Even those living in single rooms had access to indoor plumbing and sanitation. However the number of those living in sub-standard accommodation is rising. The number of those actually homeless, living 'on the streets', is increasing. Things are different, but not necessarily better. Things had improved. Now they're getting worse.
The government recently passed the Homelessness Reduction Bill - making it the responsibility of local authorities to actively try to do something about reducing the number of homeless people in their areas. Whether they government will be giving local authorities more money to do this remains to be seen. If they don't then the Bill isn't going to be worth the paper it's written on.
I've heard tell that the UK is one of the richest countries in the world. Certainly it's rich compared with many places. So why do we believe the government's lie that there isn't the money available to look after the poorest, the sick, the most vulnerable?
As I wrote before - what kind of society, what kind of government, won't look after the poorest and most vulnerable? And what kind of people are we if we let them? What kind of person am I?
Y'all have a good day now!