Homelessness Rises 62% as Man Crushed to Death after Spending Night in Bin

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The body of a homeless man, forty eight year old Ranjit Singh, has been discovered by sanitation workers having been crushed to death by a refuse collection vehicle.  What makes this story worse is that it is not a one off .  As austerity policies simultaneously force more people into homelessness, while withdrawing support for the homeless, this is one sorry episode in an unfolding disaster.

It’s Not Just Ranjit

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Detective Constable Aki Heer, reading a statement on the death of Ranjit Singh stated the following:

“A post mortem found he had sustained catastrophic crushing injuries including a broken spine and shattered pelvis and that the injuries were consistent with the large claw machinery found at recycling sites.”

In researching this piece, I was stunned to find a string of such stories in recent years.  In 2012, the Independent reported the body of a 50 year old homeless man (unnamed) found by another waste company in the Wirral having suffered the same fate. The same happened to a 30 year old man in November 2009.  There are many other examples.

This is a pretty damning verdict on a society which abandons its most vulnerable members to seek shelter amongst the festering waste, in the back alleys, out of view. With homelessness on the rise, how many more of these stories do we need to hear before we act?

Homelessness on the Rise

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The end game for those who cannot find work, and cannot find shelter, is that they join the ranks of the homeless.  There are two types of recognised homelessness in the UK:

Statutory Homelessness[1]: These are people deemed eligible for support in finding temporary accommodation funded by their local authority if they find themselves unable to keep a roof over their head. A person needs to be eligible for public funds, have a local connection, prove they are unintentionally homeless and demonstrate they are a ‘priority need’ to qualify.  Despite the gauntlet one has to run to join this list, number still rose by 21% in England and 17% in Wales in 2012[2].

Rough Sleeping: This group is formed of all those excluded from the list above, and is very hard to quantify.  These numbers have risen even faster, at 31% in England.  Homeless Charity Crisis claims numbers could be even higher though.  Outreach workers in London performed a count which found a 62% rise in rough sleepers in the capital in just two years[3].

Homeless can happen to anyone.  There is this dehumanising of homeless people, that many of us partake in, largely to distance ourselves from the true horror of a person reduced to holding out a cup for pennies.  I remember my first lesson in homelessness was when the father of a childhood best friend’s alcoholism suddenly became out of control.  We had shared family holidays and he was a big figure in my young life.  His sons hero worshipped him.  He lost the battle with addiction and within a few years, alienated his family and ended up sleeping rough.  When I was 17, I found him in the high street picking food out of a bin.  I stopped to talk to him, his face weathered, scarred and pock marked, his speech slurred, but it was as if we were just catching up.  Just a few months later, I discovered he had died of pneumonia, at the age of 42.  It broke my heart and scared me to death.  It was the first time I found out that homeless people were not the feral underclass I had been subliminally taught to think they were – but real people, with real lives, destroyed by poverty.

Criminalising Homelessness

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The government has launched no significant programmes to take action on this issue.  Quite the opposite:

  • 4,000 bed spaces have been lost in cuts to housing support services
  • In a recent survey by Homeless Link, nearly half of all homeless services reported budget cuts of an average 17%

Instead, they have chosen to criminalise homelessness through new anti-squatting legislation.  The following is the tragic story of just one of the 6,437[4] people that slept rough on the streets of England during 2012/3.

Thirty five year old Daniel Guantlett froze to death in February 2013 on the porch of an empty bungalow in Aylesford, Kent (pictured above).  He was on the porch because if he had entered the bungalow he would have been in breach of new ‘anti squatting’ laws.

In 2012/3, the UK Parliament passed legislation which made it possible for the police to immediately evict anyone found squatting.  Since then, there have been 33 arrests, leading to ten convictions and three prison sentences.  None of these court cases involved squatters displacing existing tenants, all of the properties involved were completely empty.

Daniel Guantlett had been one of those arrested, for sleeping in the disused bungalow on a previous occasion.  This bungalow was empty, and was due to be bulldozed.  On the night in question, Daniel chose to obey the law and settle on the porch for the night, whilst temperatures dropped to minus 2 degrees. This decision to comply with the law cost him his life.

His frigid body was found by a passer-by the following day and an inquest later confirmed he had died of hypothermia.  To add to the tragedy, Daniel was the second homeless man found dead in the town that weekend.

People finding themselves without shelter should be supported by social workers and housing officers, not bullied by bailiffs and police officers.  We have permitted our parliament and our police force to criminalise homelessness.  This led directly to a young and destitute man freezing to death in the street, while a property lay empty behind him.

Vicious Cycle

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It is untenable.  We have a situation where the cost of living is rising several times the rate of wages, meaning working people are over £2,000 a year worse off than in 2010.  Whereas German workers received a pay rise of 2.7% in this period, roughly matching inflation in the country, UK workers received a 5.5% pay cut making them among the fastest falling wages in the 27 nations of the EU.

While wages have been cut, rents have risen 37% as unrestrained private sector landlords exploit the housing shortage by boosting rents.

Rather than tackling either exploitative employment practices, or private sector landlords, the government is simply cutting the social safety nets in place to catch those affected.

They have implemented the Bedroom Tax, withdrawing Housing Benefit from people trapped in social housing which the government deems ‘under occupied’, yet a recent study found there was no alternative accommodation available for 96% of those affected.  This penalty can only be fair if users have a choice in their behaviour, otherwise the state is simply penalising citizens for its own lack of a social housing policy.

The Benefit Cap places an arbitrary limit on the amount of financial help a person can receive, regardless of the real cost of living. The government has chosen to cap the total amount of benefits any household can receive at £500 a week for single parents and couples with children, or £350 a week for single people.

This might seem like a lot to those outside of London, but the spiralling rents in the capital make this a paltry sum.  A three bed property in Brixton averages £449 a week, while a two bed in Fulham is now £502 per week. This policy will make it almost impossible for the non-working and working average family to live in the nation’s capital.

The cap rolled out on 15th April in several London boroughs, and has been extended to the rest of the country between 15th July and the end of September 2013.

The cap will impact 67,000 households in the UK. The DWP’s own figures state that the average household will lose £83 each week – but almost 20,000 households will lose over £100 per week, and 11, 390 households will lose over £150 per week.

The Chancellor has already suggested that he intends to drop the cap by another £6,000 in the future.

Enough is Enough

 HM6

It is actions like these which are forcing people into the dire straits of exploitative employment, or out of their homes and onto the streets. Worse, the Labour opposition are no opposition at all.  They have manifestly failed to oppose these assaults on the welfare state, not through cowardice but because they are ideologically aligned to the Coalition on economic issues.

The best means of mounting a rebellion is to support the creation of support structures outside the system.  Think evolution not revolution.  Instead of waiting for the cavalry charge, seek out the people building sustainable, workable alternatives where the current system is failing and throw your whole weight behind them.  In short, you are needed to help build and shape the new world.  Anyone can do this. In fact, the harder you are being hit, the more directly beneficial this is to you.  So here are some useful means of finding shelter, food and currency NOT on offer within the status quo.

Time Banking – we may not all have money, but we all have time.  Your local area will likely have a time bank, if not, set one up. People trade their time – from making cups of tea, reading stories, dog walking, plumbing, gardening all sorts.  You can put in your skills, donate your time and in return you can cash in for someone else’s time doing something you need.  Can’t afford to fix your fridge? Spend some time helping someone else, and then you can get someone in through the time bank.

Community Farm & Gardens – help grow food in and with your local community.  Reduce your reliance on supermarkets and purchased food by growing your own, and rediscover your community with it.

Housing Cooperatives – learn to share accommodation with others, by grouping together we can create workable living spaces.

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22 thoughts on “Homelessness Rises 62% as Man Crushed to Death after Spending Night in Bin

  1. Pingback: War on the Poor Reaches New Low as Living out of Your Car Becomes Illegal - Banoosh

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  4. Lets see, I know something of homelessness, since I am without one at the moment, but Homelessness as a word to describe the condition of being without shelter that you control, is a lousy choice of words. Homelessness is a symptom of what could be any number of conditions, and its cure, is not as simple as just providing shelter for anyone person, or family group. The cure in the USA is different, in some ways, and the same as in the UK. Homelessness is What Happens, After!!! Choose your crisis, Family Brake Up, Divorce, Domestic Violence, Drug Abuse, Alcohol Abuse, In the USA Medical Disaster where simple medical procedures can run in the Tens of Thousands of Dollars, and cause Personal, and Family Bankruptcy, Mental Illness, and a lot more. Then we get to the run of the mill Economic problems, lack of work, low paid work, and such. I have been reading you for a while, and I know you like to rail against those friendly folk that, run your government, and many of their idiotic policies, but governments in the end can do only so such to end homelessness, because homelessness is more of an ingrained societal condition, then a lot of the advocates for its extinction would like to admit. The old saying that you can lead a Horse to water, but you can not make him drink, is as true for horses, as people. Your friends father that you both loss, because you both cared for him, was killed by his drink first, before what ever disease or sickness got him. It was the drink that destroyed his family, and drove him from it, and the drink that made him unemployed, and may be unemployable, homelessness came after. This is only one type of the many case of actions that in the end cause homelessness. If you can not solve the underlaying cause, you will never solve the symptom that is Homelessness.
    As for your governments programs for those receiving housing benefits, how is it, that your claim that a couple with child, receiving 500 Pounds a week in London is bad off, that amounts to 26,000 Pounds a year, which is $40,609.00 US Dollars, at todays exchange rates, are you telling me that if I gave you 26,000 Pounds a year, that you did not have to work for, you could not find the extra to make your life more comfortable, without too much extra sweat of the brow. If you gave me , this American who has never been to your country or London, 26,000 Pounds a year, I bet I could pick up off your streets enough stuff to make another 10 Thousands Pounds which I would not have to pay taxes on, in a cash economy, and live very well, and any reasonably wealthy women sitting at home could always watch her neighbors children for a fee, or baby sit at a couples home for an evening, child care is not cheap in the US, and I bet the same is true in the UK. Considering that 60 to 65% of UK citizens own their own homes, which is about the same percentage as in the US, the 35% left are renting at open market rates in the private rental market, or living in your government supplied houses, The Homeless can not comprise more then a one 10th of one or more percent of that 35%.
    What you have run into, in your advocacy of more, for those getting government help is that you soon run up against the fact that, staying at home, and collecting a government check is as viable as busting ones rear end getting up every day, to earn your daily bread, for you, and your family. The question plainly put, is should those that do not work, for what ever reason, who can physically do so, live on the people who do work, and pay all of the taxes that you people are forced to pay, and then get as much money in benefits as a working couple, working one or more jobs each to keep house, and home, together, and children feed. The majority of people who live in your country say No, and thats way those funny people that run your country are in power. I still think the so called bedroom tax is bad social policy, for any number of reasons, but part of what you are up against is that, the people who are out working to pay for their own housing, are never going to be as generous with people who are not.
    Nor I would say that your argument that the cost of housing is going out of reach for working families in the UK, the housing is there, you may not be able to live in the wealthiest parts of London, but a look at the housing available for sale, posted on the internet, and most sales do not get there, show a wide price range in housing available for sale, and I was looking at London and within 5 miles of the city. If I on a computer in the USA can search your housing markets, and find home working people can buy, then you surely should be able too. There are lots of reasons people may be homeless, lack of housing stock that is affordable, is not one of them in most of the cases. As for home buyers, bad credit can be fixed, and down payments can be saved, I would say from here in the US, and I would say the same for the UK, any family that wants to own their own house, will find the money, and the will, to get there, any one crying about lack of housings is just making noise. Affordability in housing is a function of where you can live, given income, not where you want to live.
    By the way in my research I found some great canal boats in central London at great prices that I would trade for a tired tiny little row house, or condo any day.

    • i don’t know where you got your figures, but as a single working parent i find that my income is extremely low (minimum wage) forcing me to claim working tax credit. i still pay my rent and council tax and find myself living way below the poverty line. my son is not entitled to free school meals and although i was a homeless pregnant woman i had to sue my previous landlord and council in order for them to provide me with welfare housing even though i qualified under their own rules. a wage i might add that no respectable credit company will consider lending on. many people work extremely hard their entire lives to have nothing, often a person is not entitled to any help until they have exhausted all other avenues (including savings) Gaining habitation is not as easy as you think. I could work a sixty hour week but then most of the new wage would be spent on childcare, i did not have my son for others to raise him. we would be no better off, extremely stressed and never see each other. it is my choice not to work myself to death and have a happy family life. If the living wage were mandatory for companies rather than voluntary less of the population would be struggling. when you only just have enough to live off (absolutely no luxuries) i would be dead by the time i had saved a down payment. lets see….. retrain for a higher paid job you might say…..well not qualifying for any form of aid in paying fees where is the money coming from, work more hours i refer you to childcare issues meaning no spare monies for fees. vicious circle friend.

  5. But no worries, house prices are rising and the government can underwrite loans so people can buy houses up to the value of £600,000. We do not live in a civilised society when some people die in the cold and others are getting rich through government subsidies.

    • Don’t you watch the tv/documentaries or read the news. Reports from local councils. I.E, framework/homelessness and other charity organisations. There was not enough properties in the 80’s, now it is worse by 62%. The population is growing.

    • This is only a valid reply if you know of a way to ensure the peopleless homes are filled with homeless people. Be sure of your knowledge before sharing it.

  6. I think that we should commonly define several crimes that it is okay for homeless men to commit in order to use the jail system as a bed-and-breakfast. Stuff that doesn’t make too much work or paperwork for the bobbies and allows them to use the many wonderful facilities tax monies pay for without any problems. I’m talking about 25 people named John Q Smith, becoming a standard. This so their record does not become peppered with offenses that are merely seeking a meal and a shower. If you’re going to criminalize poverty, at least give the poor the same benefits as criminals. It costs so much more to keep a man in jail than it does to give bedspace eventually the politicians will learn this lesson the hard way. This is the lesson Florida is learning now and the rest of United States will learn over the next few years. Also the more homeless men to go to jail the safer it becomes for them.
    It is far nicer to be in a warm tank even with 30 others playing chess and watching television than it is to be crushed to death in the dumpster.

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