Feature

United Kingdom: Save anger for the system, not the poor

We should criminalize the causes of the housing crisis, not the homeless people who are its symptoms.

Owen Jones
The Independent

Now even the Left wants to punish the homeless for being homeless, said Owen Jones. Chuka Umunna, a Labor Party lawmaker widely hailed as a “rising star,” is spearheading a crusade to rally Labor behind the Conservative effort to criminalize squatting. The Tories last year started throwing people in jail for camping out in abandoned private homes, and now they want to do the same to those who seek shelter in unused commercial properties. This week, Umunna praised a newspaper commentary that “dripped with xenophobic nudges and winks,” telling of people “whose life has been made hell by neighboring foreign squatters,” and then tweeted how unfair it was that some people should work hard to pay rent while others just squat for free. How sad that Labor has fallen for an old Conservative tactic—redirecting people’s anger over their plight away from those actually responsible and “toward others at the bottom of the pile: immigrants, ‘shirkers,’ public sector workers.” The fact is, if you struggle to pay your rent, it’s because wages are too low, landlords are ripping people off, and social housing has been slashed. We should criminalize the causes of the housing crisis, not the homeless people who are its symptoms.

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