While the housing market booms, the number of homeless people is growing
Hardly a day goes by without the newspapers reporting on the increase in the housing prices and how lucrative is real estate industry. Double page spreads showcase crazy prizes for houses equipped with swimming pools, cinema rooms, gyms, huge living rooms and marble encrusted bathrooms which look more like spas than loos. And all within wallet’s reach for the many sheiks or Russian tycoons who live their London dream. There is, though, an army of people who’d be happy just to settle on the doorsteps of these magnificent houses for a night- except they would be shooed away by zealous butlers.
Homelessness is on the rise, both in Italy and in the UK. And if the definition of “homeless” includes the people who sleep on friends’ couches or in B&Bs, hostels or churches, imagine how it must be for the ‘real’ homeless – the people who sleep rough on the curb, wrapped in a blanket whatever the weather.
Last year in England, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government, there were 2414 people sleeping rough every night, and 543 in London alone, a 5% increase on the previous year (source homeless.org.uk). In Italy the number of homeless people has trebled from 2000 to 2011. In Milan there are 2592 homeless (or 0.21% of the population), while in Rome there are 3334 (0.12% of the city’s population).
However, those numbers are very difficult to confirm, as people are often ashamed of their situation. Many are jobless as well as homeless and it is very difficult for them to go back to a normal life. The Passage, in Central London, tries to help by sending their Outreach Team to help rough sleepers to move away from the streets, provide them with food and showers and offer them assistance and advise. Meanwhile City Angels, an Italian volunteer organisation, patrols city streets bringing food and blankets. And in New York Mark Bustos, a hairstylist, spends his Sundays giving a haircut to the homeless people of Manhattan. It will not solve their housing problems but it does give them that necessary burst of confidence. As they say, every little helps.