Thursday, August 31, 2017

Sleep in the Park - Homelessness for sale.

A sleep-out to end homelessness in Scotland is set to take place in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh for a night. It will see a line-up - consisting of Liam Gallagher, Amy MacDonald, Deacon Blue, and Frightened Rabbit - come together on December 9.
Sir Bob Geldof, the Band Aid organiser will sleep overnight in the gardens and John Cleese will also be making speaking appearances. The Monty Python legend will read a bedtime story. Comedian Rob Brydon will host. the Band Aid organiser will sleep overnight in the gardens. Edinburgh City Council, council leader Adam McVey, his deputy Cammy Day and council chief executive Andrew Kerr will also sleep out themselves.

Homelessness charity Social Bite wants to raise funds and work together to stop the “sticky plaster mentality” and get to the root issues with a plan to eradicate homelessness over a five-year period. Organisers have set a fundraising target of £4 million from the event, but are also looking to generate 1,000 employment offers and 1,000 lodging pledges. Josh Littlejohn was the entrepreneur who brought George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio to Edinburgh. People must pledge to raise at least £100 for Social Bite, which has just begun work on Scotland’s first “homeless village,” to secure a ticket for the event while 2000 spaces will be set aside for corporate teams, who will be asked to make a fundraising commitment of at least £3000 for five places.

Yet again, Socialist Courier can applaud the sincerity of well-meaning individuals who genuinely consider they are personally doing their bit helping to solve one of the problems of the day – lack of housing. But that does not mean that we in the Socialist Party can endorse such futile gestures as this, which do not come close to addressing the real root cause of homelessness and bad housing – capitalism, the system all those good-intentioned media personalities support.

Under capitalism, houses are produced as commodities to be bought and sold for a profit. The developer is compelled by competition to struggle for profit and a struggle against competitors,  a market war of each against all. The housing needs of workers are not his problem. In this profit struggle, the diverse needs of society can never be met. We are born into a class system in which we are propertyless and can only exist by selling our labour-power to an employer. We get the housing conditions corresponding to that class position. Capitalism is a society of haves and have-nots, of winners and losers. Homeless people are at the unlucky end of the social scale. Many of us are only just one pay-packet or two away from being thrown into homelessness. It is no surprise that companies will be sponsoring this “sleep-out”. Supported housing and other homeless services may help some people to progress, but they can’t solve the problem of homelessness itself.  Instead, homelessness is a business opportunity for capitalist organisations to feed on. Every problem created by capitalism – debt, lack of opportunity, lack of skills, addiction, crime – has become a consumer demand for a service. Homeless people are customers, who staff are supposed to think of as targets and outcomes to be recorded and collated. And in the cut-throat competition for funding, homeless services are integrating further with the market-driven dynamics of the economy. When society is driven by economic forces, rather than what people want and need, then some people inevitably suffer. Increased funding, new services, or reformed procedures may help a few people in the short-term, but they can’t address the causes of the problem.

It is no intention of ours to sneer at attempts to grapple with the vast and depressing housing problem. It is to their credit that they have at least taken a look at it, for all too often it fosters an attitude of apathy and hopelessness. But having said that, there is nothing in this campaign to shake our conviction that homelessness and bad housing is a product of private property society. The solution is not to tinker around with charitable gestures, but to create a world of common ownership. Decent houses will then be built and lived in.

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