At the end of March last year I returned to the UK after two years of living and working as a volunteer in Nepal. Prior to that ,the day job for a number of years involved managing a range of homeless services in Southampton. These days I’m back in Southampton, working as a part-time social worker for the local authority, with a case load that is in the main older drinkers, the majority of whom have been part of the homeless ‘system’ for many years. A lot of those on my case load are already known to me, some for upwards of 15 years. Much as I enjoy catching up with them again, it’s something of an indictment that the circumstances which a good number find themselves in are not substantially different to those which they were experiencing several years ago.
…and lest anyone thinks otherwise,I don’t think that this absolves people from responsibility for their own actions…but the state and society as a whole has an equal responsibility for taking care of those who are vulnerable and/or marginalised.
Which leads to the photograph below…
At the end of my wanderings along the Regents Canal, documented here, I came across this poster on the boarded up door of a building in Hampstead Road, which by the looks of it was part of a derelict/ disused hospital. In the light of the way in which the media, and therefore by extension ‘society’, demonises certain sections of the population, a couple of observations.
From September 1st 2012, squatting in a residential property became a criminal offence. Squatters can be arrested and, if convicted, can be sent to prison for up to 6 months or fined up to £5,000, or both.
The popular characterisation of squatters in the media, typically focuses on squatters as people who occupy the homes of others, displacing them in the process and damaging property. Squatting is portrayed as a lifestyle choice. The extent to which squatting is a manifestation of homelessness and housing need is largely absent from this discussion.
Remember to look beyond the headlines…