As you read this blog, where are you? Clutching a hand-held device on a bus or a tube? Or are you staring into a PC in your bedroom? As I write the article I’m in an armchair, a coffee by my side, Spotify blasting The Stranglers. The point is, I’m home.
There are many who don’t do computers. Because they don’t even do homes. Although the exact numbers are difficult to quantify, here are some facts from the Homeless charity, Shelter. In Britain, someone is under the threat of losing their home every two minutes, while the overall total of homeless households has risen by 25% since 2001. 50,000 households in England and Wales, 35,500 in Scotland and 19,000 in Northern Ireland are currently defined as homeless.
A common misconception is that homelessness is down to personal failings. The facts state otherwise.
There are complex reasons why people find themselves in this predicament. A common misconception is that homelessness is down to personal failings. The facts state otherwise. Again, according to Shelter:
“Homelessness is caused by a complex interplay between a person's individual circumstances and adverse factors outside their direct control. These problems can build up over years until the final crisis moment when a person becomes homeless”.
Here are some of those factors: drug and alcohol misuse, poor qualifications, lack of social support, debt (notably rent or mortgage arrears), poor physical or mental health, crime, family breakdown, sexual or physical abuse in childhood or adolescence, having abusive or drug dependent parents, experience of institutions (care homes, the armed forces, prison).
In many case the homeless only appear on our radar when we discover someone draped in a blanket, seated on the pavement by the cashline. But homelessness was beamed right into millions of living rooms when 26 year-old Robbie Hance, who has lived on London's streets on and off for six years, performed ‘Coconut Skins’ by Damian Rice on the X Factor. Amidst the conveyor belt of deluded karaoke performers who ‘want to be as famous as Lady Gaga’, it is often the case that performers with a dramatic back story, invented or otherwise, are guaranteed a head start. Just as Susan Boyle’s ‘learning difficulties’ and childhood bullying demonstrated her triumph over adversity when she found overnight success in Britain’s Got Talent, the X Factor judges scent the download sales to be generated from a good ‘rags to riches’ story.
When Robbie’s 15 minutes expire he has so much further to fall than the histrionic orange-faced wannabes sharing the X Factor stage.
It would be commendable if Robbie Hance turned his life around and no-one would deny someone with real musical talent being offered a window of opportunity, especially if they’ve experienced life on the streets. But fame is fickle. When Robbie’s 15 minutes expire he has so much further to fall than the histrionic orange-faced wannabes sharing the X Factor stage. For many in Robbie’s shoes, the only glimpse of the X Factor is through the windows of the Comet doorway they’re sleeping in tonight. And why should Louis, Gary, Rita or Tulisa be remotely interested in their singing skills?