Announcement on the Victoria Line train today: “Do not encourage beggars on the Tube by supporting them”
directly followed by;
“Poppy collectors are operating at this station. Support the heroes who sacrificed so much for you”.
But what if…
What if the homeless ‘beggar’ was once a soldier? Which pigeon hole does he fit? Is he more worthy because he was a soldier or less so because he’s now a beggar? Empathy shouldn’t favour occupation. Who says ‘beggar’ anyway? Are we living in some sort of Dickensian novel?
When did it become ok to completely disregard someone’s dignity according to their wealth? There were clearly so called ‘beggars’ on the train to have prompted the announcement. How awful must they have felt surrounded by the eyes of commuters with this ‘warning’ blasting like a Nazi roll call? Does this not constitute public humiliation? TFL may as well have stuck a cone on their head and a bell round their neck. “Incoming parasite”.
Are beggars choosers?
The homeless people we see on our streets (or indeed trains) are soldiers, students, teachers, nurses, builders, bankers, entrepreneurs. Financial situations or a breakdown in a relationship or illness can set off a string of events to the homelessness path ie ‘luck’. These people are potentially your sons, daughters, mothers and fathers. They are potentially YOU if you were not privileged enough to have supportive family and friends. They are potentially you even if you do. These people are people.
Does the feelings of a homeless person no longer matter because they do not own property? What do you really own anyway? Do you own the roof over your head? Or does your bank or landlord? We could all become homeless in a moment. We all read the stories from the 2008 financial crash which saw rich business men taking their’s and their families lives under the stress of financial loss.
People do not aspire to be homeless
In 2008 the corrupt banking system caused the financial crash leading to austerity measures seeing millions of people globally lose their the homes and jobs. In the UK alone 1.3 million people were made redundant between 2007 and 2010, and we’re still £30 a week worse off on average than we were before the crash. Just four scapegoat bankers were jailed.
The poorest areas of the UK have shouldered 97% of cuts to adult social care, children in care, homelessness services and social housing since 2011, according to a Lloyds Bank Foundation study.
Over 13,000 veterans now homeless according to charities? Thanks to government cuts to armed forces and mental health services.
These health cuts have also seen homelessness among people with mental and physical health disabilities increase 75% since the Conservatives came to power in 2010. Disabled people make up a disproportionate percentage of the homeless. Corrupt (PIP) Personal Independence Payment procedures means disabled people are losing lifeline benefits through humiliating and traumatising assessments. The knock on effects means those with mobility cars no longer qualify, therefore they can no longer get to work, so lose their jobs and income which quickly spirals to homelessness. Disabled people with mental health conditions have no chance in the riddling assessments, they just fall through the net, on a fast track to homelessness. In the past two years alone rough sleeping in the UK has doubled.
Big business fraud and tax avoidance
Meanwhile, minimal attention has been given to big business and corporations committing billions in fraud or tax avoidance. Instead the media continues to feed us weird sensationalist headlines of ‘benefit cheats’ and ‘immigrants’.
Just get a job
Saying the homeless are lazy, should just get a job or that they will just spend your £1 coin on drugs doesn’t wash. This stereotype simply relieves yourself of guilt, validates your own insecure social standing and shows YOUR laziness to challenge the real villains in this whole social mess. Giving to a homeless charity is great but the person in front of you may not benefit from that tonight so let people choose how they help.
Besides, if your reality was so horrendous that you had to sleep in a freezing concrete doorway, risking being attacked, sexually assaulted or robbed every day and night, wouldn’t you grasp on to some escapism? We all take drugs for much less. Headache? Pop some painkillers. Painkillers do not magically get rid of pain they numb the pain receptors in the brain. These people are traumatised and in chronic pain either psychologically, physically, or both. Is it any wonder that some self medicate? The fact that some homeless people take drugs is not the issue, the fact that homeless people exist in one of the richest countries in the world is. Oh and if you don’t have a fixed address you can’t get a job. Simples.
Don’t look up
Vilifying the vulnerable is an age old propaganda tactic to justify oppression and keep everyone in their place. Treat homeless people like scum, brand them ‘beggars’ and no one will want to associate with them let alone empathise. And conveniently in turn, no one one will question the system that put them there in the first place. And that, is just perfect for those at the top. Perfect as they grin in the financial comfort of their siphoned offshore accounts and the warm toasty seats of their expense paid houses, playing scapegoat puppetry with us all.
But yeah let’s just ignore all that and not ‘encourage’ ‘beggars’ by ‘supporting’ them on the Tube. Tragically the average UK life expectancy of a rough sleeper is 43, compared to 77 for the rest of the population. Surely people who are homeless, hungry or cold should be the first ones we look after in society rather than labelling them as some sort of parasite. TFL, that ‘beggar’ could also be that ‘solider’ you are ‘encouraging’ us to support in your next announcement.
I love this and agree with so much of it.
Thanks Sean it just felt so wrong. I’m sure many other people on the train felt the same x