It is a great time to relax when you go home for Christmas. I love spoiling my daughter. However some people have no homes to go to…
It has been very frosty in the UK and weather forecasters are predicting a white Christmas this year, which is no fun for those who have nowhere to go and are sleeping rough. Why not make a gift of a night in a homeless shelter or buy a Christmas dinner for someone homeless this year?
For any student thinking of taking a course at any of the universities or colleges here in Southampton, let me assure you, that this city is your oyster. It’s not just the friendliness or great night-life either.
At one time ‘digs’ were a choice of a few halls of residence or slum landlords. In an effort to improve the situation for students, council policy was implemented to register all student accommodation. Once a building block or house in multiple occupation (HMO) has been designated for students use, no-one else can live there unless declared otherwise. Tax-free building incentives were implemented and student houses are free of having to pay council tax. So now there is such a glut of apartments and shared housing for students that those from neighbouring colleges in towns such as Winchester, Bournemouth and Portsmouth, have come to live here and commute.
And yet more and more blocks of students apartments, even maisonettes, are being built on every available empty space in the centre and in desirable areas of my city.
The initial thinking was that the slum landlords, some of whom own over 100 houses with rooms for rent, will be forced to sell their empty properties and families will be able to buy them. Though, sadly, this is not proving to be the case. The high taxes second home owners would have to pay if they sold-up, has meant that they are now filling them up with young immigrant workers, who are earning as much as they can to send back home, whilst living in cheap, substandard conditions.
In Southampton this has increased, rather than eased off a shortage of rented accommodation for couples or families, and a shortage of housing generally for any working people who want to get on the housing ladder. Homelessness has increased steadily over the last 10 years and by 30 percent over the previous year, according to local reports. This is not party political – it is a sweet dose of reality.
We ourselves live in a part-rented house which the owner wants to sell and we need to move, again. It is a problem. HMOs are not an option for us oldies, that value our privacy, and no-one wants to lend us a mortgage at our ages.
It is assumed that most retired people have settled into their comfortably off houses and expect to downsize eventually to a retirement home. Unfortunately we fall outside this net, due in part to having lived abroad (at one time in a 6-bed villa with a pool and yacht in the harbour, before we moved back to England). We have gone through a series of unfortunate events. Briefly: Cancer, stolen identity theft and an announcement from the DWP that £12,000 in overpaid pensions to my husband (needs to be repaid as they had made a mistake in 2007). It looked as though we might have to leave our beloved Southampton and head elsewhere.
Then, we realised that there were lots of cheap old boats, rotting in marinas along the Solent coastline. The Southampton Boat Show last year proved that people are after large new luxury yachts and the bottom has fallen out of the second-hand boat market. Marina fees are a hell of a lot cheaper than rent. We could live on a boat and even go on holiday by taking our ‘home’ with us.
So that optimistic thought is now our aim. We are dejunking, giving away or selling all our accumulated belongings (proving slow) and going to live on a boat!
We will be very busy for a while – my husband will be 80 years of age this year and we are both slower than we used to be, so please excuse me if I don’t read and comment on as many of my regular bloggers’ posts, as I normally do for a few months. I will let every one how I get on and keep up some photo challenges. I will be back
Anyone who comes to visit any country in Europe must notice at first hand the increase in the number of its own citizens sleeping rough on the streets. Depression like this – we haven’t seen since the 1930s. Let me tell you about my City…
When I was a child, the only homeless people one would see on the streets in my town were alcoholics. These were normally Merchant Seamen, who had spent their whole 6-months pay on booze and women in one go. Every December 25th, my father, usually a bit of Scrooge all year, would invite someone off the streets in to join us for Christmas Dinner. My brother and I would be quite put out about this and thought it diverted attention away from us. Not least of all because the invited guest would hit the free booze as soon as possible. They would swear and tell tales of sexual exploits that were not suitable for children’s ears. My mother would hide herself away in the kitchen – we kids would hide under the table. Once there was a Canadian novelist, who made money from selling his books all about the sea. He told some very interesting stories – but he still drank heavily.
Today however, many of the homeless are just normal people, who have hit bad times. Many cannot afford to drink or smoke. I have talked to a variety of homeless people in and around Southampton. I do not offer any analysis, but here is my general observations: The youngest I spoke to was 14 years-of-age, the oldest was 82. Other vulnerable people included those with mental illnesses. I have met five couples and two families. Most are single. All of them were white. About half were British (from every country except for Wales) and the other half were from a variety of Eastern European countries. About one-quarter were ex-servicemen. Two years ago, I noticed many with dogs, now however, I notice very few with dogs.
Before I go out, I try to make up bags of sandwiches using up any leftover ingredients that we would not get through ourselves. I include fruit and unwanted chocolates. If they are sleeping in nearby streets to where I live – I take cups of tea, coffee, soup or hot-chocolate. I have also recently discovered an organisation called Curb that re-distributes food waste via pop-up shops and cafes.
My own husband has debts to pay to the Department of Work and Pensions. Last Christmas he was informed that his Pension had been over-payed for the last eight years and sent a bill for £12,000 ! We are paying this back in instalments somehow. This Government is clawing back as much money as possible from the “welfare” budget (we had no idea that pension was welfare).
We are certainly not alone, we were told that thousands were in the same situation. The “trickle down theory’ is obviously not working here. When billionaires walk past the homeless to buy a new yacht at the marina, it is obvious to me that the rich are getting rich and the poor are getting poorer. It doesn’t seem too long ago that we thought of ourselves as comfortably off.
However, I am truly thankful that I am alive, with a roof over my head, I am not at war, I eat well and have a wonderful happy family.
So though I cannot hand out money, left-overs cost me next-to-nothing – and after all – “There but for the Grace of God go I”.
Much as I love Southampton, which has some wonderful positive things to offer cruise ship tourists (which I shall get around to writing about more – I am usually a positive person) these are some snaps from my home city in support of Banksy’s Dismaland.
If you have not heard of Dismaland then please do an image search online. This is a ‘bemusement’ park that has been opened up in South-West England, for six weeks, by a group of 59 British artists including: Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer, Jimmy Cauty, Bill Barminski, Caitlin Cherry, Polly Morgan, Josh Keyes, Mike Ross, David Shrigley, Bäst, and Espo… headed by Banksy. Actors (as disgruntled security guards and staff) and writers have also been employed (Julie Birchill re-wrote a macabre Punch & Judy script).
The Tropicana swimming resort in Weston-super-Mare, a one-time holiday-haven, has been turned into an anarchistic statement about Western capitalism – A Disneyland gone wrong.
Banksy hails from near-by Bristol. He possibly recalls as a child, summer days on the sands and pier at Weston-Super-Mare, which have deteriorated now. The type of British family that used to spend their holiday here, no longer have money for resorts. Pictures like this can be found at tourist areas throughout Europe. In London, visitors are sad not to meet people like characters from Downton Abbey.
But don’t book £3 tickets on the Dismaland website, or you will just be trolled. The project highlights the down-side of Britain emulating USA-style boom and bust financial strategies. Our boom from the 1990s sub-prime-type/hedge-funding and such, burst its bubble in 2008. Although the Government has announced that the Country is now “doing well” – giving themselves generous pay-rises; people argue that these strategies have little way of ‘trickling down’ any benefit to the common people. There is also a sense of childhood loss, a feeling of being cheated by the false promises of a fairytale with a happy ending.
One could be forgiven if you live outside of Britain for thinking that the WWII Blitz (bombing of Britain during the second World War) only happened in London. Yes. They did suffer terribly as it had a big population, but bombings happened in cities all over Britain. Photos are few or non-existent of most places that were bombed outside of the capitol as not many owned cameras and most photo-journalists worked in London.
Coventry, an important centre since medieval times was flattened. Every port city was blitzed; Hull, Liverpool, Bristol, Swansea, Plymouth to name a mere handful. The South Coast in particular was a dangerous place to be and was where most of our sea defences were.
Southampton was bombed frequently, firstly because it was an important commercial port and secondly being the home of Supermarine that had two factories here, building Spitfire aircraft. When these were both bombed, killing 100 factory workers, mainly experienced engineers, Spitfire production was spread out all over the South. Garages, laundry rooms, hotels and anywhere that still had a roof was commandeered into the design, manufacture, or storing of Spitfire parts. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supermarine_Spitfire
Guided tours of these amazing undercrofts can be booked and each autumn there is a “Music in the City” festival where by unusual places like these are opened up for a variety of bands to perform in.
After the war rationing continued but children found enormous pleasure from playing on bombed sites until the sixties. As a child I found gas masks, bits of junk; there were endless windows to throw stones at and hideouts were dugout from mounds of rubble. Unexploded bombs have been discovered frequently in Southampton since the war and have had to be deployed. The most recent was discovered by a group of builders in a main street in 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hampshire/8549256.stm
In retrospect these ‘playgrounds’ were extremely dangerous, but nothing compared to the dangers faced during the war.
Britain faced a tremendous rebuilding cost as temporary prefabricated homes were developed. Many houses were built in the 1950s, but as the population started to boom again, concrete became the main building material for quick, cheap imitations of Le Corbusier’s modernist architecture.
Ally Law, a video blogger (vlogger), who strolled over Itchen Bridge in Southampton to take photos, helped save a man’s life. Ally found a homeless man crying and about to jump in the water to end it all while lots other people had just passed. He accidentally caught the first bit of their conversation on his camera. It has been shared (with the man’s identity not revealed) on the Daily Echo’s website. There has been a number of similar suicides like this in Southampton recently. The rise of the jobless and homeless seems to have doubled within a year. Which makes me think it is a worldwide problem during this “Depression”: