According to Jad Adams, chair of the homeless charity Croydon Nightwatch, the roots of the homelessness problem in the UK date back to the 1980s, when under then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher local councils were told to sell all of their social housing properties — these were homes given to the poorer residents in the community.
"The reason why we are seeing an increase in homelessness is because there are too few homes and too many people — and that is a manufactured process. Social housing was sold off by the Thatcher government in the 1980s. Councils were obliged to sell the properties and they were forbidden from buying any new ones. So we lost the staple of housing that had been given to poor people from about 1910 when social housing got going. So that's one reason homelessness has increased," Mr. Adams told Sputnik.
There has also been a push-down effect in the housing market following the financial crisis of 2008 when "super rich people" would come into the UK and purchase properties in Mayfair, Chelsea and Kensington, according to Mr. Adams. This shoved people from these places — the "semi-posh people" — further out in London.
As house prices rise, lawyers and doctors find themselves priced out of the market, and they end up renting.
"Landlords choose people with stable incomes as their tenants over those who depend on social benefits or a zero-hour contracts for a living," Mr. Adams told Sputnik.
However, it is not just the government who are reluctant to address the homeless problem. The general public also believe that those who sleep rough and look as though they are able to work, would be better off looking for a job than sitting around begging.
Not all, but many find it difficult to understand why a 20-year-old young man, who looks perfectly healthy, would be sitting on the street and not out there looking for work. Mr. Adams highlights that their are a growing number of men and women who are pretending to be homeless, which in itself is a serious problem.
"There is sympathy with homeless people, but this is weakened by those who pretend to be homeless in order to go out begging. So the people who the general public see, who look like they're homeless and might even have self-made placards saying they are homeless — might not be. They might just be begging for money because it is a good way to make a lot of money. But the beggars tend to be able-bodied folk, often men who are perfectly capable of doing a job. What they actually chose to do is beg for a living… beg for drug money," Mr. Adams told Sputnik.
Mr. Adams advises that the public can help homeless people by talking to them and offering to buy them food.
Many people living on the streets are in desperate need of conversation and just sitting with them for a few moments can make all the difference.