Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Social Class and Homelessness.

A recent report suggests that the middle class are the emerging group of homeless.
But at what point do we record these distinctions? Is alcoholism and drug addiction class distinctive or do the middle classes just hide it well? Are we to assume that middle class people all have savings, mortgages or family to help them out in their time of need, I know plenty of people who would consider themselves middle class but have none of these. If we are to assume a definition of middle class then is it someone with a good education, in a professional job and a home owner? 
Do we need to put aside these useless definitions and make people realise that homelessness can happen to anyone, as we don't know what the future holds and how we will cope with it. Can any one of us ever say we will never be homeless? Maybe, we need to do more to open peoples eyes and make them realise that mental health, physical health, addictions, bereavement, self harm, domestic violence, abuse, unemployment are common factors that can contribute to someone being homeless regardless of their class.


  1. It maybe true that on many occasions i have worked with people who have had such a damaged past its no wonder they struggle with the demands of everyday society, being in care, death of a parent, abused, parents sith addictions or all of the above. I have worked with people who come from generations of unemployed and wouldn't dream of getting a job and those that are so entrenched in the homeless culture that any other life would be unthinkable. But if I had to make class distinctions would say I have also worked with those from varying professions i would not class them as anything but middle class, french polishers, tree surgeons, pianists, mortgage advisor's. I don't think this kind of distinction is helpful, we need to use the information we have to tackle the reasons for homelessness, which during this time of economic recession is effecting us all.

  2. I have been reading an interesting book entitled 'Chavs - The demonisation of the Working Class'. Whilst not specifically about homelessness the book explores the notion of an ongoing class war against working class people that began, predictably, with Thatcherism, but has been picked up by consecutive governments since. With free markets and deregulation of banks, working class communities have had the heart and soul ripped out of them whilst governments have championed the aspiration to become middle class, destroying close knit communities in their wake in favour of individualism. Interestingly Cameron has attempted to rally fragmented and individualised 'middle class' communities behind the cry of the Big Society, having aligned his career to the very party that set out to destroy working class communities. How many 'middle class' communities are ready to embrace the needs of homeless people, drug users or people with mental health problems one wonders.
    Whilst middle class individuals are not immune to homelessness/ drug problems etc, there is arguably something sinister about whole communities that are pushed to the margins of society where the protective factors against becoming homeless are increasingly lean. Neo conservative free markets are all about the individual making their lot in life better, not building communities, and if you are poor it's because somehow you didn't seize the opportunity to better yourself.
    Where increased drug abuse and associated links with homelessness are iresultant of poverty and marginalisation, for example in areas where traditional industries have been decimated, it brings into question the effectiveness of criminalising drug users. Pre the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 homelessness and drug use were not synonymous. This is increasingly a phenomenon of the last thirty plus years as drug use has increased one thousand percent, not a great outcome by any reckoning. Imagine a smoking cessation media campaign resulting in an increase in smoking by 1000% .