I bought my girls some new beds a few weeks ago to replace the pine bunks they’d outgrown. Following a friend’s suggestion I signed up to my local Freecycle group to see if anyone wanted them. In no time they were snapped up and moving off to a, if not better then at least longer, life in another household. Since that time I’ve received daily Wanted and Offered messages in my inbox for things like bee hives, toasters and wheelbarrows. Usually I read these with vague interest and then delete but yesterday I received a message which is still sitting there waiting for some action:
Wanted: tent and camping gear as being made homeless
It reminds me of that piece of Hemingway microfiction: ‘For Sale: Baby Shoes; Never worn.’ The telling of a whole sad story in just a few words. Unlike Hemingway’s piece though, this is not microfiction, it’s micro-non-fiction and that strikes me as being so much more tragic.
This one here is a sad story on so many levels. For the person who posted this, what sorry circumstances brought them to this point? I could hazard a guess because there are enough testimonies available for those who might be interested. A loss of a job, a relationship breakdown, illness, personal tragedy, abuse, benefit sanctions.
For me, a reader unsure how to respond despite being engaged in raising awareness of our housing crisis and having some insight into the issues. Since last week sitting tight wondering where to go next. Wondering if anyone is listening or interested.
For our society, in which the housing difficulties faced by those on low wages or benefits seem less pressing than getting a few first time buyers onto the housing ladder.
I have a tent under the stairs. In reality I am likely to use this once or twice a year. I could offer that tent to this person about to be made homeless. But that’s not enough, is it? I’ve only got one tent after all. What happens to the next person who is being made homeless because there is a wholly inadequate housing safety net? Don’t we need to make sure that safety net has a chance of functioning properly by building more houses of all tenures? Get house prices under control so those who wish to buy, can? Ensure people who work are paid enough to be able to have real choices and act as full consumers in the renting market place instead of being at risk of exploitation? Seek to protect renters generally? There’s just so much to do and the sooner our new government starts outlining the ways in which they intend to move us towards a solution to the crisis in housing, the better. The state we find ourselves in now has been a long time coming and so will either continue to get worse or will be a very long time going unless there is real commitment and concerted effort to change it. Like the email in my inbox mentioned earlier, I too am sitting here waiting (and hoping) for action.