1980s >> 1983 >> no-952-december-1983

Homelessness: a class problem

Many explanations and solutions are offered for the growing problem of homelessness. The traditional hostels and spikes echo the workhouse approach for the vagabond and the tramp — and these hostels do indeed accommodate the largest number of people. Many are run by religious organisations who see godlessness as the cause of the problem. A more contemporary approach seeks to go further in understanding and to put the matter in a social perspective. Alcoholism, family trouble. psychiatric difficulties, drug addiction — all these are cited as causes of homelessness. Many campaigning bodies such as CHAR (Campaign for the Homeless and Rootless) and Shelter put a lot of effort and resources into bringing attention to bad housing and into trying to achieve statutory responsibility.

All such approaches, however, ignore the fundamental cause of the problem of bad housing and homelessness. Why should it be a problem to have no home; to be, as the police put it. Of No Fixed Abode? In this society of private ownership of the means of life, having one’s own patch represents security and respectability. If someone does not have access to a home of their own they are homeless. Having a home and being homeless take on meaning only in a property society. A member of the working class who does not have a home can leaf through the property pages of the “quality” newspapers and see plenty of large comfortable houses available — to those who have the considerable amounts of money needed to rent or buy them. This member of the working class isn’t suffering from homelessness but from poverty — the condition of the entire class. Homelessness is a condition which does not face a member of the capitalist class.

Homelessness as a social problem docs not exist in isolation. This same property system causes hunger, war. crime — a list of misery as endless as is the number of people and groups who wrongly isolate each problem and seek a solution to it separately within the present system. They are trying the impossible. Only in a socialist society, a society without private property, will such problems be abolished.