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TV: No Place to Call Home
"We're all three pay cheques away from being homeless"
Pete Mason, Barking and Dagenham Socialist Party group
"We can't facilitate" the "wellbeing of the most vulnerable," says Barking and Dagenham council leader Daren Rodwell. This was a frank admission to 'No Place to Call Home', the BBC's distressing account of homelessness in the east London borough.
Barking and Dagenham is facing a "torrent of people" who have been evicted. Housing charity Shelter ranks it second worst in the country.
One woman, Linette, had spent the last four days in hospital due to an attempted suicide. She has lost her job and has no income. She looks far from well. She is asking the council to house her. But it's a "housing options service without any options," and she is turned away.
Once the biggest council estate in Europe, stretching across three constituencies, the council has continually sold off its stock. It is cutting £53 million from its budget by 2020, more or less halving it.
The new housing it is building jointly with the private sector, says Rodwell, is for the "aspirational working class". This reflects the Tory ideology that homelessness, and poverty generally, is the fault of the working class itself. Supposedly we fall into idleness, drunkenness and crime, and only have ourselves to blame for our ills.
The Labour Party was founded on the principle that it was the fault of the capitalist class, not the working class, that the 99% suffers while the 1% gets ever richer, profiting from the labour of its employees.
"People think they are entitled," spouts one Labour Party official, as the programme gives a glimpse of how far the Tory ideology has penetrated. "We can't be the protector in the community." People face a 50-year wait for a house, she says.
"I didn't see this coming" says a former special needs teacher now living in her car. She has gone from contemplating buying a house to worrying about the next meal and being able to wash. "They took the house keys from me."
But the council tells her she doesn't qualify either. The council has "no duty of care" to her. "It's not against the law to be homeless," the housing official says. "We're all three pay cheques away from being homeless." What an indictment of capitalist society!
Alongside the programme's justified moral outrage, fortified with lingering shots of weeping, run unchallenged hints that housing shortages are not due to the destruction of council housing, but immigration.
Many can't see why the council doesn't do more. Some inevitably believe the Tory scare stories about immigration. At the same time, a ruthless private landlord packed 30 migrants into five rooms in Ripple Road, Barking.
Only a massive programme of council home building to house all, regardless of origin, can solve this.
- 'No Place to Call Home' is available on BBC iPlayer until 18 November
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