London sees a rise in rough sleepers

UK – London – Friends, Claire, 36 and Edwin, 61, both homeless, talk after a soup run organised by a Christian Charity on the Strand


The Broadway Homeless charity have just reported that London has seen a 43% increase on people sleeping rough in the capital from last year. The only glimmer of home in this figure is that 70% of those aren’t sleeping out for the second night due largely to the actions of charities like Broadway and increased work from outreach teams. This, despite Boris Johnson’s pre-election pledge to ‘end rough sleeping by 2012’. According to a Guardian report in April this year, £5m – underwritten by central government – was diverted from the Mayor’s budget for rough sleepers, to ‘other purposes’. Expect worse to come if proposals to remove housing benefit for under 25’s come to fruition.

There is a clear link between London’s rents becoming more and more unaffordable for large sections of the population and these figures. London is often referred to as a divided city. It isn’t. It is now many cities. Extraordinarily wealth in the centre, guarded and cosseted by technology and private security (tested and honed on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan) swimming in an ocean of increasing poverty – material and aspirational – that finds its dreams impossible. All of this underwritten by a facetious, poisonous narrative of unfulfilled personal responsibility and fecklessness.

According to Stuart Hall, cities of the nineteenth century and twentieth centuries were monuments to Imperial power: motors of industrial production and trade. Globalisation has significantly reshaped London and the people sleeping on its streets (or the thousands a breath away from it) as inconvenient dislocations from an industrial to a service economy dictated to by modern day robber barons fixated on personal wealth and profit. I write so much about the Developing World, Delhi in particular (and recently Athens) that it is easy to neglect what is literally under my feet.



World Homeless Day

This post is a little late as World Homeless Day was on Monday 10/10/11 and although several kind people (Laurence Watts, Justin Leighton, Panos and Duckrabbit) Tweeted some of my work but I was away and so missed the opportunity to write something.

The work here is from an ongoing piece about Delhi and it’s people – where some 100000 people just happen to be homeless. I’m always cautious these days about doing another story about the homeless – you know the nameless victims staring up at the camera but  the sheer scale of Delhi’s problem is so significant, so enormous it became inevitable. The work was an assignment from ActionAid (thanks to Laurence who believed in my proposal) and was made through the invaluable assistance of Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan from whom I must thank the wonderful Paramjeet Kaur and Prakash, my invaluable guide and I hope now, friend. I tried very hard to make work that showed people as individuals coping in very difficult circumstances but one that is surprisingly easy to fall into. Normal, ordinary people in difficult situations. These are just three of my current favourite images – you can see a larger set via my archive or the Panos site.


India - New Delhi - Patti Das and his child Khrisha on a piece of waste ground beneath a flyover near Okhla station. New Delhi, India.


India - New Delhi - A mother picks at her child's hair for fleas as a train passes behind them on a piece of waste ground where they live beneath a flyover near Okhla station. New Delhi, India


India - New Delhi - A homeless mother, hugged by her small child, cooks breakfast by the railway tracks where her family live. Okhla, New Delhi, India