No one knows how many homeless people there are. Countries define homelessness differently; count only those sleeping rough and in shelters on one night night in a year; struggle to estimate those camping with friends or family and living in bad housing or places not meant to be homes.

But what’s clear is the number is increasing.

If we don’t know how many there were, don’t know how many there are, then how can we know the number is increasing?

Oh, yeah, sorry, forgot myself. Guardian and numbers, ’nuff said.

33 thoughts on “How?”

  1. As with all social problems, the left define them in ever widening ways to ensure that no matter what is done, there will always be a problem.

  2. As long as you use the same methods for both timepoints you can tell if the number is higher, lower, or about the same. The question then is what precisely are we measuring and is it a useful proxy for actual homelessness.

    Questions from Tim we can answer.

  3. Isn’t the remarkable thing how few ‘homeless’ people there are theses days: a minuscule fraction of the population with a portion approaching zero sleeping outdoors.

  4. Mc,

    Good question, but I would definitely include involuntarily sleeping without cover, and probably exclude most kipping over at friends.

  5. Hm. When I came to London in late 1991 there was tent city in Lincoln’s Inn Fields and a corrugated box city in what used to be called the ‘bullring’, by Waterloo. Hundreds of them. And it was the tip of the I.

    You could walk from Waterloo bridge to Trafalgar Square and encounter another dozen sleeping in doorways

    Unsurprisingly, perhaps, it was at exactly that time that the Big Issue was set up.

    Mind you, nowadays, there’s a chap near me, he’s been selling it for at least a decade. Presumably he likes doing it.

  6. BiG – I don’t know either. I was going to say ‘only rough sleepers count’ but a bit of me says there’s actually no point counting them because we/society can’t do anything about 90% of them. They’re on the streets because they are beyond help.

  7. Could the various blokes (not in the UK) say if they have Romanian women (I use the term loosely) and men begging on the streets and, if so, how the public and the authorities regard and deal with them?

    No longer just the city centre, but any little shop here in the urban area and they’re all over it now.

  8. Portugal has lots of actual gypsies. Proper living under canvas, out of a cart, gypsies. It can be a bit disconcerting to be in a supermarket and realise that a young woman is profoundly, completely, innumerate. Holding out a stack of money to pay for goods and patiently waiting for the change. Note the “young” there.

    Some such gypsies do become gyppos. Canvassing every house and trying to sell lucky heather or whatever in an aggressive manner. The police will, and do, come out and move them on. Those who are peripatetic doing the tying the vines up stuff are entirely left alone. The village we used to live in was the location of a horse fair once a year, council happily provided crowd control, roped off an area and all that.

    There were indeed Romanians up in Lisbon. The police do “take care” of them. Begging is allowed but only passively.

    It’s worth recalling that within our own lifetimes – well, most of us here – this was still a properly, truly, fascist state.

  9. BF

    Yes, we have them (not all or always Romanian). All have badly handwritten signs in exactly the same style of writing. The seem to be part of an organized ring. We have sub-saharan Africans in the same situation as well.

    Our local gypsies (when not causing trouble) are scavengers rather than beggars. They round up scrap.

    Specifically we also get a better class of European Romanian. Spanish is an easy language for them (there are, surprisingly, a number of similar words), they have a good work ethic and they are often well educated and thus underemployed here.

    We get a lot of underage illegal Moroccans (we amazingly provide housing and cash for them in residences) and some of them cause endless (theft, violence, rape) trouble.

    Our major immigrants are from central and southern America. Same language (more or less), certain affinity and they (often) work hard in the bottom part of the labour market.

    Here in the Basque Country we have the Minimum Income Guarantee which tops up your earnings if you don’t earn much. I’ll leave you to imagine the reality. Playing the system I think you would call it.

  10. Just got back from a long weekend in Lille. It was noticeable how many people were begging on the streets. Far more than in an equivalent city in the UK (?Leeds).

  11. They’re on the streets because they are beyond help.

    Many of them have mental health ‘issues’. In years gone by, they would have been sectioned and locked in a nice warm asylum. But then we decided they must be ‘cared for in the community’.

  12. One of our friends is a little chap, 5′ 2″ sort of little. When he hops over into Romania, the gyppo types hassle him for money (thinking he’s short so must be an easy mark), aggressive begging style, accusing him of racism if he refuses.
    He’s found the best way to deal with them is just to speak Russian at them assertively straight away and they disappear.
    Russians – not known for taking shit or caring about being called racist.

    Just some friendly travel advice.

  13. MC, “a bit of me says there’s actually no point counting them because we/society can’t do anything about 90% of them. They’re on the streets because they are beyond help.”

    It’s literally true. I learned very quickly when I moved to London that I could lose my entire week’s allowance in the space of 10 minutes – if I allowed myself to be governed by ignorant pity.

    That’s one of the lessons a big city teaches: there are desperate people, and you cannot help them all and, even if you can, how do you know they deserve to be helped?

    Then, after a few years, I started to get the measure of the local down-and-outs. A measure of who was a fraud and who was genuine. I might have been right or wrong, but at least I had a sense of judgment, a sense that I could make value judgments – this person is a scammer, this one is deserving and in need.

    So I went to see this old girl. She was a feature of the local streets. Gawd bless me, for once in me life I thought I’d try and do something. I bought her paper cup of tea and a delicatessen slice of cake, and I took them to her like any menial.

    She was not happy. She suspected I was trying to poison her. She was not, by the way, er, slim.

    She was obsessed by the Royal Family. And v distraught by my presence.

    After my rebuff, I approached a local charity focusing on such cases. And they pointed out the blindingly obvious: if she don’t want to be helped, we can’t help her – otherwise, we’d be kidnappers.

    I suspect she is dead now. I think her name was ‘Mary’.

  14. Bloke in Lower Hutt

    Our street dwellers down here in Wellington are almost entirely home grown which is unsurprising given the geographical barriers to migration from Eastern Europe. I would say anecdotally that rough sleeping has increased significantly in Wellington over the past decade but I couldn’t begin to speculate at what the cause of that may be. Most of those on the streets are passive beggars with the occassionally schizoprenic drunk thrown in for good measure.

    I haven’t really noticed any splits along racial lines, I think most Kiwis would expect Maori to be highly represented among the homeless but agan anecdotally I’m don’t think thats the case, my estimate would put it close to 50/50 Maori/Pakeha. You don’t see many Pacific Islanders on the streets but then again Wellington doesn’t have a big Islander community and they also tend to be strongly Christian so they believe in all that ‘looking after yourself, close family and friends’ old skool nonsense.

  15. “It can be a bit disconcerting to be in a supermarket and realise that a young woman is profoundly, completely, innumerate. Holding out a stack of money to pay for goods and patiently waiting for the change. Note the “young” there.”

    I have extensive professional dealings with such people. They are always illiterate and innumerate. Yet somehow they drive Range Rover Evoques and their wives carry LV handbags. They always have nowhere to call home, except when a court date reminds them of the death of a beloved uncle or aunt in Ireland.

    I wonder how they read the road signage, much less work out how to pay for groceries.

    Maybe Portugal just gets the nice, innocent ones.

    The ones we get – and there are numerous, frequent infestations* near me, are vile. It’s like they’re hamming it up: central casting for the anti-didicoy brigade sends them in as agents provocateurs.

    *Yes, I did use the word ‘infestations’.

  16. While I’m sure there a venn diagram of homeless and beggars would have a large intersection they are by no means the same thing

    Also interesting to note that I would have counted as homeless multiple times during my life according to the Guardian definitions. (Living with family / friends in between moves or while looking for a new pllace to stay

  17. How?

    If there are a dozen different estimates of homelessness, each using a different method, but each one keeping their method constant, and they vary a lot, then we can still say something about the change without having to agree on the level.

  18. @Tim Worstall December 10, 2019 at 6:11 pm

    Interesting, thanks

    It’s worth recalling that within our own lifetimes – well, most of us here – this was still a properly, truly, fascist state.

    True. I still find it strange that Spain, Portugal and more were dictatorships when I was <18

  19. Dianne Abbott Mk2

    Labour MP Dawn Butler: in 2007 under Blair’s Labour 3,000 rough sleepers in my Labour Brent Constituency, evil Tories blah.

    Looks like “evil Tories” have fixed Labour’s rough sleepers problem. In 2017 4,751 in all England

    Solving Rough Sleeper and other Problems

    An article to send to BluLab and Corbynites, especially young naive

    Capitalism works, encourage, promote and support it
    Solving the problems of the world requires stuff, and the world trades stuff for money – money being the manifestation of wealth. The more problems you want to solve, the more money you need and the more wealth you need to create…

    Taxing the wealth creators slows, stops or reverses wealth increases for all

  20. Ed Lud

    I found an infallible method was to look at their shoes and especially note whether the beggar covered them up. I was astonished to see how many beghars wore DMs or timberland boots on my walk from Waterloo to the city.

    By the way Gyppoes invaded the car park of my local The Range store yesterday. Caravans parked in spaces and Mercs blocking the roadway. Coppers were there but havent been back yet to see if they have been expelled.

  21. “They’re on the streets because they are beyond help.”

    I agree but that doesn’t mean they aren’t homeless. It might mean that even the wealthiest and most egalitarian society has to tolerate some homelessness.

    There’s another good example with this of the “boy on hospital floor” thing. Not to say this isn’t a bad thing that shouldn’t happen, but what do you do if there actually aren’t enough beds? Turn patients away? And if you want there to never ever ever be a time when the hospital is running at 100% capacity, well, how much does it cost to have enough beds to cover that 100-year event? The 1000-year event? Etc. All far too much nuance for a journalist that, though.

    “Could the various blokes (not in the UK) say if they have Romanian women (I use the term loosely) and men begging on the streets and, if so, how the public and the authorities regard and deal with them?”

    The local begging industry here is controlled by some eastern European group, roma, Romanians, Albanians, who knows. They are not as aggressive as in other places, and the problem is much less bad than it was in the same town just after the collapse of communism.

  22. bilbaoboy,

    It’s not surprising that there are many words the same in Romanian and Spanish, because both of them are ‘Romance’ languages (meaning ‘derived from Roman Latin’, not ‘romantic’). Wikipedia has a a good article on it, with a nice family tree of the languages. It’s not just some words, it’s a lot, and also, the construction of sentences is similar in many cases between the languages. However, there are differences with imported ‘loan’ words, so for example ‘mole’ (burrowing anima)l:
    French taupe
    Italian Talpa
    Spanish Topo
    Catalan talp
    but
    Romanian cârtiță – perhaps from the same root as the Turkish (not Romance) köstebek

  23. Bloke in North Dorset

    BiG,

    There’s another good example with this of the “boy on hospital floor” thing. Not to say this isn’t a bad thing that shouldn’t happen, but what do you do if there actually aren’t enough beds? Turn patients away? And if you want there to never ever ever be a time when the hospital is running at 100% capacity, well, how much does it cost to have enough beds to cover that 100-year event? The 1000-year event? Etc. All far too much nuance for a journalist that, though.

    Its not just the beds, its the doctors, nurses, admin staff, cleaners, usw, need to support them. And then the cries would be about the amount of waste and inefficiency in summer as the beds lie empty and the staff are wandering around bored.

  24. @BiND

    Not sure its possible to be bored in the NHS

    What I do find amazing/frustrating/illuminating/sad is that after 75 years of sustained ‘investment’ the NHS does not seem to have gained in efficiency or effectiveness. Maybe its because the bar is always being raised

    Remembering my childhood 50-odd ears ago the way that patients engage wih the NHS is essentially the same. You make appointments and wait. No need to prove identity or entitlement. Doctors still send letters, consultants have PAs, the supposedly professionalised nurses still essentially fill in forms, albeit electroniclly. Data is gathered many times but hardly ever used. Expensive diagnostic equipment stands idle outside office hours. in an age when smartphone apps can monitor blood pressure, temperature etc hospitals still use nurses for basic observations

    My experience of the NHS is that it is hopelessly organised, Duty rosters are completely inpenetrable, no-one seems to be held responsible for anything. Spend any time in a ward and just observe the sheer numbers of staff milling around, ocasionally talking/attending to patients. There is always someone with a trolley moving stuff about….

    The only growth industry seems to be stats collection to prove that the NHS needs more money

    And yet medical treatment is generally available on the basis of need and generally effective

    Maybe our expectations are simply too high?

  25. I seem to recall that a great deal of the increase in homelessness is accounted for by foreign migrants, who, for example, may have come looking for work and been unlucky and are not entitled to benefits.

    A large proportion of the rest have problems way beyond the lack of a roof over their head, which is tragic and deserves our sympathy and attention.

    But if, as the left seems to think, anyone on the streets should be housed, if I were in my twenties, I’d consider spending a summer on the streets in the hope of being give a home….

  26. I seem to recall that a great deal of the increase in homelessness is accounted for by foreign migrants, who, for example, may have come looking for work and been unlucky and are not entitled to benefits.

    All the increase in Britain is due to foreign migrants.

    With very low unemployment, far fewer locals are forced on to the margins.

  27. NHS

    Labour constantly shrieking “We must keep the money in the NHS, not pay private profit makers”

    Where do NHS staff spend their wages?
    Where does NHS buy their food, equipment, drugs etc from?

    They pay private profit makers. Is Corbyn’s plan to nationalise everything?

    @BiG December 10, 2019 at 10:23 pm

    +1 on boy on floor

    Reminds me of homeless: Gov’t “No you can not pay £30 per week to sleep on mattress in under-stair cupboard even if you want to.”

    @starfish December 11, 2019 at 8:23 am

    Spot on. imo Public sector problem is they introduce a new IT/Tech to replace manual, but replace never happens and the old continues – more staff costs every year.

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