Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Housing and Food Poverty are the new black

Housing and Food Poverty are the new black.

When events in your life propel you to a place where you have no port of call, no reference point for your compass to rest, then the wider society has failed you.  We live in the most affluent of times, yet when you stop and actually look around you, the less fortunate are no better off than the majority of us were in Dickens times. We have created that, us!

“Do the wise thing and the kind thing too, and make the best of us and not the worst’
 (Dickens 1854)

Yeh, right!

Despite all of our affluence, all of our intelligence, all of that capitalism, in creating millionaire footballers, entertainers, business men and celebrity ‘Entrepreneurs’ , society and humans as a whole have shown to be utter rubbish. Whilst ridiculous entrepreneurs with their huge egos fire cars into space at a cost of millions of dollars and others con personal data out of gullible people while the world watches on like desperate zombie groupies, honest working people are begging in the streets and depending on handouts from foodbanks. Yeh, we are great species, aren’t we!

As a visual communicator, I probably notice more of what is happening around us than the casual observer. But even the blindest of the blind cannot fail to see the increase in the homeless. As a photographer, I have noticed over the last decade the number of people existing on the streets by begging and accepting handouts has grown exponentially. When I research this deeper, I discover the tip of a massive homelessness iceberg, which manifests itself in a much deeper and largely unseen epidemic, which as a society we have simply accepted and treat with contempt. Why do we do this? Because it couldn’t possibly happen to us, and we are not like those people, are we? The homeless are all tinkers, Alco’s and druggie’s yeah? No, most of the homeless you will never see.

To be homeless does not necessarily transcribe to living rough, on the streets, in the woods or sofa surfing. Homelessness is greater than that, in fact, the actual scale of homelessness in the UK is beyond what you have imagined.

Take a step back for a moment, and look at some evidence, some information that does not manifest itself in front of your eyes on the high street.

Statutory homelessness.

How do we define statuary homelessness? According to the charity Crisis:

‘To be legally defined as homeless you must either lack a secure place in which you are entitled to live or not reasonably be able to stay. However, in order to receive assistance under the main homelessness duty, there are further strict criteria that you have to meet. Local authorities may initially provide temporary accommodation to households who might meet these criteria, mainly families with children’. (Crisis, 2018)

Translated in to plain English, you are at the mercy of each local council, their own rules, and the mood of the person who oversees your application that day. In real terms (and from personal experience) you are alone. If you are extremely lucky (ridiculous turn of phrase I know) to have your plea for homelessness status accepted by the council and to qualify as homeless, what happens then? You are not guaranteed a harbour. There are numerous charities which may be able to help with some basics, but in reality, you are on your own, and likely to be no better off because you have been accepted as being homeless. The events which led you there will still exist.

Giving someone a place to stay will not fix the reasons for them being there. They will still be in the same state of human poverty as when they applied, but perhaps with a roof over their heads.

Below are some statics from

‘Compared to the same quarter in 2017, the latest statistics show that between 1 January and 31 March 2018: - The total number of households making an application was 7% lower at 26,400. - 52% of applicants were accepted by local authorities as owed the main homelessness duty. - 4,460 people were found not to be in priority need, representing 17% of the total statutory case load. - The number of households in temporary accommodation was 79,880, representing a 3% increase from last year’

26,000 households, not people, households, made an application! So that’s what? Each household x at least 2 People, human beings! Or possibly a family of 3, 4 or 5? The real number of human beings facing sleeping on a friend’s sofa, the car or the street is likely to be in the Hundreds of thousands. In the same period, a total of 2,920 young people (aged 16-24) were accepted as statutory homeless ( 2018). What about the 79,880 households (How many actual humans) in temporary accommodation. What does that mean? Have you ever had to live in temporary accommodation? Can you imagine the stress of living like this, not knowing from day today if you have a home? Can you, really? The same number of individual people who go to Wembley Stadium to watch a football match is around the same number of households (Families) in temporary accommodation, which really means they are homeless. So the next time you are at a gig or sporting event, look at yourself sat in your seat, look around you, times the amount of people by two, or three or four and think on that.

Rough sleepers. A polite way of saying homeless, of having nowhere to be:

The best estimated guess by the charity is that there are currently 4751 people in the UK sleeping rough, although they do admit this is a rough estimate (Harris, 2018). That’s around 1 in every 13,000 people living rough. There has been a 62% increase in people sleeping rough since 2010 and there are currently an estimated 215 people sleeping rough in my home county of Yorkshire alone (Harris, 2018).

What has caused this massive increase in rough sleeping? According to the website

‘Research that we carried out in 2013 showed that 43% of people who slept rough for the first time had problems with alcohol or drug use. For some people that was a contributing factor to them becoming homeless; for others, it was a symptom of trying to cope with other problems that they faced. Poor mental health is widespread among people who are homeless or sleeping rough. Over 40% of people we work with have a mental health issue. Many, however, may never have had access to adequate treatment or support. We also work with people who may face adult literacy or numeracy barriers, who may feel unconfident in the skills they have to offer, or don't recognise the resilience and strengths they have’ (Mungos 2018)
It does not take a rocket scientist to discover that society is failing these people. We are failing each other. Not just the government, but us, on a local level are failing each other. Why is poor mental health so prevalent amongst those in poverty? What has led to such a widespread epidemic of poor mental health? I would argue that is a side effect of the wider society and how we accept that we exist.

Here is a list of possible causes of poor mental health as proposed by charity mind:

·         Here is a list of possible causes of poor mental health as proposed by charity mind:
·         childhood abuse, trauma, or neglect
·         social isolation or loneliness
·         experiencing discrimination and stigma
·         social disadvantage, poverty or debt
·         bereavement (losing someone close to you)
·         severe or long-term stress
·         having a long-term physical health condition
·         unemployment or losing your job
·         homelessness or poor housing
·         being a long-term carer for someone
·         drug and alcohol misuse
·         domestic violence, bullying or other abuse as an adult
·         significant trauma as an adult, such as military combat, being involved in a serious incident in which you feared for your life, or being the victim of a violent crime

·         Physical causes – for example, a head injury or a neurological condition such as epilepsy can have an impact on your behaviour and mood. (It's important to rule out potential physical causes before seeking further treatment for a mental health problem).

(Mind 2018)

Look that list, absorb it. It is all society inflicted. If we simply used our capacity for good, this list could be extinguished. This is the fault of society, it is all of our fault. That poor guy in the doorway of the old Woolworths is their because of us, all of us.

In a country that happily pays for often spoiled, unappreciative men to kick a ball around a field of grass a gross £315,000 per week (16 million per anum) (CBNC 2017) is the same society that accepts that massive, multibillion pound companies can pay no corporation tax. We facilitate this, us. And whist we facilitate this, the average self-employed grafter is hammered with a tax hike (Sutherland 2018). We have facilitated people living in absolute misery on the streets, in temporary housing and with poor mental health. This is a self-inflicted epidemic which is showing no signs of abating, we all need to take a long hard disgusted look at ourselves.  

The Hidden Homeless:

‘Research by the charity Crisis indicates that about 62% of single homeless people are hidden and may not show up in official figures’ (Crisis 2018). How does this affect the actual number of human beings who are homeless? The actual figures are likely to be in the hundreds of thousands. Just think about all of those Human Beings, yes Human Beings, not numbers on a spread sheet, not just a sound bite on the news who disappear when the TV is switched off.

Food Poverty is the new black.

The UK, 2018, one of the richest economies’ in the world with a Gross Domestic Product of 2,622,433.96 (World Bank 2018) Let those numbers sink in. Why then are people, often in work are accessing food banks to survive and feed their kids? This is not a dystopian novel, this is reality! What the Fuck is going on?

According to the Trussell Trust Network:

‘The top four reasons for referral to a foodbank in The Trussell Trust network in 2017-18 were ‘low income – benefits, not earning’, ‘benefit delay’, ‘benefit change’ and ‘debt’.’
(Trussell Trust Network 2018)

24% of people had to access foodbanks because of a delay in benefits (Trussell Trust Network 2018). Those two words ‘Delay’ and ‘Benefits’ should never be allowed to appear in the same sentence!

Benefits. Ah the good old Conservative Party and their Universal Credit roll out eh! If I had half a brain I would completely understand that this change in how benefits are assigned has been inflicted on purpose to cause unnecessary hardships and certainly will not ‘benefit’ anyone in desperate need of them. I grew up in the 1980’s and I remember what Thatcher’s Government actually did to people of the UK, especially in the North. If I had been asleep since 1989 and woken up today, I would still believe we were in 1989.

Some more statistics: In areas where Universal Credit was rolled out, there was a 52% increase in people (Humans) accessing foodbanks. In areas without Universal Credit, although still horrific, the increase was 13% in comparison.  (Trussell Trust Network 2018)

Further, in a survey to determine if indeed people in work are having to access food banks, around 15% of people surveyed included people who had an income, working people who were accessing food banks run by the Trussell trust Network to survive. (Milne 2017) This does not include any data from Food Banks other than those ran by the Trussell trust Network.
The Trussell Trust, has volunteers feeding the poor. Read that again, this is 2018.
What are we, the society doing in allowing this to be the norm? There should be a crowd of millions of us permanently camped outside parliament peacefully protesting until this is changed.

Evidently, Humans on the hole suck.

In reality, as people, even the better ones amongst us are horrible, self-serving, greedy bastards. We are all great at throwing a few quid here and there, but what does that do? I have a novel idea! How about we talk to each other! Communicate, check on each other, and help each other out! Imagine what might happen then! Instead of buying that new £1000 TV that you don’t need, why not see if a relative, or friend or neighbour can pay their mortgage, or their bills, or feed and clothe their kids, why not invite them for tea and to watch the match on your £500 TV? It doesn’t even need to be that extreme, if you know someone’s struggling get them a gift, food, pay a bill, go and see them. When you are wat the pub, don’t have that last pint, save the money to give to a neighbour, friends or passer-by. I know what you are thinking, fuck that, I’ve earned this and if they’ve got themselves in shit why should I help! So what then, humans are reduced to second place because you’ve been more fortunate than someone else? Get over yourself, it’s only money, you cannot take it with you, but you can help your fellow human beings. Think on, one simple mistake, an error in judgement, the loss of a job or relationship breakdown and that might just be you queueing at the dole office, the food bank or sleeping in a closed Woolworth’s doorway.


As little as seven decades ago the UK was at war and we had no choice but to help each other out. Food was rationed. What do you think food- banks are? Without that community spirit during the wars we would have been fucked. Why does it take a war or disaster to force us to do the right thing? I remember during the 1984 miners’ strike how communities came together to support and look after each other. It’s amazing how intervening years and prevailing capitalism has made us so damn selfish and greedy. I know it is not your fault, you are human, you have been played, brainwashed by successive governments and great marketers to be this way. But the next time you are in town and see someone sat in a doorway of a multimillion pound, tax avoiding company, begging for help, just remember it is 100% possible that could be you, or your kid, you mate or neighbour, in your lifetime. Or the next time you throw away half a plate of food, those tins you’ll never use or that take – away you didn’t really need or want because you are greedy, a little bit on un-selfishness could go a long way to helping another Human, a wife, a son, daughter, friend or a desperate grandparent get through the day. Oh, and I am as guilty of the above as the rest of you.

7 frames – 7 minutes.

In my utter frustration at the lack of doing anything real about this myself, I have had the brain fart to use my photography and visual communication talents positively. In an attempt to stop whining and to actually help a little more, I have conceived a photo project which hopefully can take advantage of both the positive and negative elements of our society by making use of the willing subjects, and exploiting both their brilliance and their celebrity status for the greater good.
I am seeking the collaboration of established faces to help me in my quest. The more established and infamous the better (We need people to buy the book, and celebrity helps)

I am looking to publish the book of awesome portraits of said celebrity faces with any profits from the book going directly to homeless charities and to assist food banks in their endeavours. Hopefully, as well as raising a few quid, we can persuade more people to stop and really think about those less fortunate than themselves and as a society begin to move away from the blind acceptance of this ridiculous capitalist existence. After all, many of us, even those of us who believe we are ok, are only the loss of a few pay days away from the streets, food banks and ‘Job’ centres.
I have been asked why celebrity portraits? Why not pictures of the homeless? A few reasons really. One, no one wants a book of images of the homeless or people queuing at food banks for Christmas, do they? And two, the homeless have been exploited enough without me weighing in on the action. Documenting the homeless plight is one thing, exploiting images of them for profit, even if it may benefit them is another.

Lucky no 7?

So why the number seven you may ask? No magical reason, no deep meaning. It is simply my favourite number (Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish, James Milner, Barry Sheene are a few good reasons) Placing this limitation will help to keep things real, place me under a little pressure and make me think on my feet, and hopefully the minimal time that I will require from people will allow for more celebrity faces to be involved.
If you are interested or if you can convince your celebrity mates to be involved please give me a shout. I’ll be available at your convenience, I will come to you and will only need seven minutes and seven frames of your time.
Before I shut up for today, I will invite you to ask yourself another, wider question. Given our creativity, ingenuity and capacity as human beings, why do we accept that we exist in a society that depends on charities? We simply accept them as a necessity, when there should never have to be any justification for them to exist, none at all. Just think on that.

One more thing, if you are not convinced of any homes plight, you must be walking around with your eyes closed. Below is a picture from Liverpool earlier this year, one of over fifty images I could have used for illustrative purposes. Start to look folks, and begin to help.

Cheers for your time, Lance


Cnbc (2018) Highest paid Soccer Players in the Premiere League [online] available at  accessed 2nd December 2018.

Crisis (2018) Statutory Homelessness [online] available at accessed 5th December 2018

Dickens, C (1854) Hard Times, Bradbury and Evans. (2018) Statutory Homeless Data [online] available at accessed 5th December 2018

Milne, C (2017) Are Working People using Food Banks? [online] available at  accessed 5th December 2018

Mungos (2018) Why do people become homeless? [online] available at accessed 5th December 2018

Rayner, T (2018) Line 18 – the Reality of Universal Credit [online] available at accessed 5th December 2018

Trussell Trust Network (2018) End year Stats [online] available at accessed 5th December 2018

World Bank (2018) World Bank National Accounts Data [online] available at accessed 5th December 2018

No comments:

Post a Comment