What would you do if you had two homeless people living in your gas cupboard?
Stepping outside of my front door this morning, I was greeted by a shiny Maserati sparkling in the early morning light. As I drifted off, wondering which “new Brixton” resident was trying to muscle in on parking this time, the stench of rotting food and sweat dragged me back to reality.
It was the two men in their early twenties who are living in the external gas cupboard infront of our house. It sounds like fiction, but this isn’t Harry Potter.
It’s the daily co-habiting extremes of New Brixton… New Peckham – Wilesdon -Walthamstow. New London.
Many articles talk of the social cleansing of London: but neglect to mention those left behind or over looked. This is what the growing disparities between rich and poor looks and smells like when you live in it.
Ignoring the mice, rotting food, urine filled plastic bottles and beer cans – the stench will tell you that the two men live in squalor. A lifestyle a million miles away from the owner’s of the car worth in the region of £60,000 which is parked less than 1 metre away from the makeshift bed of the homeless men.
Although I’ve never been inside the cupboard, I know that it mirrors that of the one inside our home. Maximum, 150cm wide possibly 300cm long. Not big enough for the discarded mattress that they managed to fit in there, let alone two grown men. One person’s closet is another person’s home. Literally. Again the disparities of London.
But if only it was just a financial disparity. When researching how to help the two men, I stumbled across a homeless forum. Battling opinions greeted me. A homeless person was either seen as a victim or villian.
“I’d just call the police and your building management company. The doorway is almost certainly private property.”
“I wouldn’t even feel bad. If he is sleeping in a doorway (of all places) he is knowingly antagonising the building’s occupants. My guess is that he is hoping for someone to give him a big bag of charity beddings and food (like has been suggested in this thread many times now), in exchange for leaving. DO NOT GIVE HIM ANYTHING. He will just move to another building. Contact a charity for him if you feel bad – but don’t enable what he is doing either.”
The lack of empathy was astounding. It seemed to contradict the public outcry condemning poor doors, homeless spikes and other designs aiming to segregate poor and wealthy residents in new housing developments across London. I remember reading articles heralding “hipsters”* turning anti homeless spikes into libraries with comfy seating.
Hoorah for Hipsters!
But where did the “hipsters” involved actually live? Would they have made such a stand on their own door step?
Have you ever walked into a “hipster” bar as a non-hipster? The inconvenience your presence causes stabs at your dignity almost as deeply as the bill for buzz word bar food hits your wallet. But why does the presence of some make others feel so uncomfortable? Because it is a reminder of the other side of London.
The side of London that is replaced every time a new luxury apartment development is built on hardcore made of the social housing which once stood on the same spot. If you have purchased a new “luxury apartment” in inner London recently, it is very likely that your new pad displaced a low income family. It is an uncomfortable truth. A truth which taints the aspirational image sold with the luxury apartment purchase. A truth preferably ignored and forgotten by wealthy residents and developers alike.
How would you feel if a homeless person slept in your door way?