In 1966, I watched Ken Loach's drama documentary "Cathy come home". Wikipedia summarizes the play thus:
"The play tells the story of a young couple, Cathy and Reg. Initially their relationship flourishes and they have a child and move into a modern home. When Reg is injured and loses his job, they are evicted by bailiffs, and they face a life of poverty and unemployment, illegally squatting in empty houses and staying in shelters. Finally, Cathy has her children taken away by social services."
I still remember the play vividly; it had a profound effect on me as it brought my earliest memories as a child of 5 into focus, living in my uncle's house, his family, my grandmother, and my family (my parents, my sister and me); my family had one tiny room.
My father was desperately looking for work, and eventually found some labouring work in a school in another town 60 miles away. We moved with him, and again had to live in a rented room for another 6 months. That experience made me regard homelessness as one of the greatest horrors that could befall an individual or a family.
Research by the National Housing Federation has found that between January and March 2012 there were 3,960 families nationwide in the UK living in B&B accommodation, a jump of 44% over the same period in 2011. It is likely that these figures will rise even further as the scale of cuts and austerity bite deeper.
How did we allow our stock of social housing to dwindle so low that families have to live in such conditions to stay off the streets? Politicians from left and right constantly talk about equal opportunities for our children to achieve their full potential. How does a child living under such conditions achieve his or her full potential?
Imagine the misery, hopelessness and devastation associated with these statistics, the stress and anxiety of the adults, its impact on the children, and the destruction of their future and their life chances. The poverty trap and deprivation that may result will cascade down the generations.
The charity for the homeless, Shelter, sees homelessness thus: