BATCH OF NEW 500 MILLION DOLLAR NOTES FOR THE HOMELESS
Scandal of Europe's 11,000,000 empty houses despite mass homelessness
Scandal of Europe's 11m empty homes
Housing campaigners denounce 'shocking waste' of homes lying empty while millions cry out for shelter
More than 11m homes lie empty across Europe – enough to house all of the continent's homeless twice over – according to figures collated by the Guardian from across the EU.
In Spain more than 3.4m homes lie vacant, in excess of 2m homes are empty in each of France and Italy, 1.8m in Germany and more than 700,000 in the UK.
There are also a large numbers of vacant homes in Ireland, Greece, Portugal and several other countries, according to information collated by the Guardian.
Many of the homes are in vast holiday resorts built in the feverish housing boom in the run up to the 2007-08 financial crisis – and have never been occupied.
On top of the 11m empty homes – many of which were bought as investments by people who never intended to live in them – hundreds of thousands of half-built homes have been bulldozed in an attempt to shore up the prices of existing properties.
Housing campaigners said the "incredible number" of homes lying empty while millions of poor people were crying out for shelter was a "shocking waste".
"It's incredible. It's a massive number," said David Ireland, chief executive of the Empty Homes charity, which campaigns for vacant homes to be made available for those who need housing. "It will be shocking to ordinary people.
"Homes are built for people to live in, if they're not being lived in then something has gone seriously wrong with the housing market."
Ireland said policymakers urgently needed to tackle the issue of wealthy buyers using houses as "investment vehicles" – not homes.
He said Europe's 11m empty homes might not be in the right places "but there is enough [vacant housing] to meet the problem of homelessness". There are 4.1 million homeless across Europe, according to the European Union.
Freek Spinnewijn, director of FEANTSA, an umbrella organisation of homelessness bodies across Europe, said it was a scandal that so many homes have been allowed to lie empty. "You would only need half of them to end homelessness," he said.
"Governments should do as much as possible to put empty homes on the market. The problem of homelessness is getting worse across the whole of the European Union. The best way to resolve it is to put empty homes on the market."
Last month MEPs passed a resolution demanding the European Commission "develop an EU homelessness strategy without any further delay", which was passed 349 votes to 45.
Gavin Smart, director of policy at the UK Chartered Institute of Housing, said many of the empty homes were likely to have fallen into disrepair or be in deprived regions lacking jobs, but others could be easily brought back to the market.
He said a growing problem was rich investors "buying to leave" and hoping to profit from rising property prices. The prices of prime London property – defined as homes that cost more than £1,000 per sq ft – are now 27% above their 2007 peak, according to estate agent Savills.
Last month a Guardian investigation revealed that a third of the mansions on the most expensive stretch of London's "Billionaires Row" are empty, including some that have fallen into ruin after standing vacant for a quarter of a century.
Smart said there was growing evidence of the practice in "rich parts of London, other areas of the country … probably all over Europe".
Most of Europe's empty homes are in Spain, which saw the biggest construction boom in the mid-2000s fed largely by Britons and Germans buying homes in the sun. The latest Spanish census, published last year, indicated that more than 3.4m homes – 14% of all properties – were vacant. The number of empty homes has risen by more than 10% in the past decade.
The Spanish government estimates that an additional 500,000 part-built homes have been abandoned by construction companies across the country. During the housing boom, which saw prices rise by 44% between 2004-08, Spanish builders knocked up new homes at a rate of more than 800,000 a year.
In some resorts more than a third of homes are still empty five years after the peak of the financial crisis.
The Spanish census suggests that more than 7,000 of the 20,000 homes in Torre-Pacheco, a holiday region between Murcia and the coast are empty.
The area has undergone a massive holiday home construction boom with several new golf holiday resorts, including a 2,648-apartment complex called Polaris World, which opened as the crisis struck.
Madrid Anti-eviction protesters in Madrid confront police as they try to stop the eviction of a disabled neighbour. Photograph: Juan Carlos Lucas/Demotix/Corbis
Owners of apartments in the Polaris World resort, which has a golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus, are struggling to sell homes for half the €200,000 (£163,000) they paid before the crisis.
More than 18% of homes in Galicia, on the north-west Spanish coast, and La Rioja, near Pamplona, are vacant.
Many of the empty Spanish properties were repossessed by banks after owners defaulted on mortgages.
María José Aldanas of Spanish housing and homelessness association Provivienda said: "Spain is suffering from high numbers of repossessions and evictions, so we have reached a point where we have too many people without a home and many homes without people."
Some city councils in Catalonia have threatened banks with fines of up to €100,000 if homes they repossess remain empty for more than two years. The city council of Terrassa, to the north of Barcelona, has reportedly written to banks holding more than 5,000 homes demanding they take "all possible actions to find tenants" or hand the homes over to the council to use for social housing.
In France, the latest official figures from INSEE, the government research bureau, show that 2.4m homes were empty in 2012, up from 2m in 2009.
Italy will release figures for the number of empty properties in the country's census, published this summer. A survey by the Italian statistics institute estimated there were 2.7m in 2011, and a 2012 report by the Cgil union estimated 2m.
unfinished houses Ireland The Waterways, an empty and unsold housing development, is pictured in the village of Keshcarrigan, County Leitrim, Ireland. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters
In the UK more than 700,000 homes are empty, according to local authority data collated by the Empty Homes campaign. Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, the UK's biggest homelessness charity, said "homes shouldn't stand empty" and the government needed to come up with "bigger, bolder ideas" to tackle the lack of available, affordable homes.
In Portugal there are 735,000 vacant properties – a 35% increase since 2001 – according to the 2011 census. An estimated 300,000 lie empty in Greece and 400,000 in Ireland.
The Irish government has begun demolishing 40 housing estates built during the boom but still empty. It is working out how to deal with a further 1,300 unfinished developments, and Deutsche Bank has warned that it will take 43 years to fill the oversupply of empty homes in Ireland at the current low population growth rate.
SuperHobo: Comic strip raises cash for homeless in Berlin VIDEO
Clean out Your Closet to Help End Homelessness VIDEO
Cold snap threatens most vulnerable and homeless in America VIDEO
Michael homeless in Syracuse VIDEO
Miguel homeless in New York VIDEO
Homelessness a much bigger threat than terrorism VIDEO
I, too, am one of the estimated 22,000 homeless students in New York
For a country that brags about its FREEDOMS there are millions living at the edge of life due to the lack of security
that comes from their failed housing policies
It's impossible to succeed unless you can escape being homeless. My grades went kaputz when I lived in the shelters
I used to dread it when people at school asked me where I live or if we could hang out at my place. I would try to give my schoolmates a general response, maybe the name of a neighborhood, but they always pressed for more. I've been homeless on and off for most of my life. I've lived in New York City shelters twice for extended periods of time.
Most of the other times my mother and I bounced from house to house of friends and relatives.
I remember one time we were living in a house with 15 people. It was a nice house, but not for 15 people. It was originally three bedrooms, but after we makeshifted it – changing the closets into rooms and stuff like that – we ended up with about seven "bedrooms". Kids were always running around. Someone would bring in all these animals and then never take care of them. We had two bathrooms but one broke often. One even became a kind of prison for a cat that no one wanted. You would think someone would just take the cat to the ASPCA, but everyone was too lazy. The house fell into disarray. We couldn't even get down the hallway without stumbling over trash.
Perhaps other students in my school lived like I did, but I never knew it. I recently heard about the New York Times profile of Dasani, an 11-year-old homeless girl. In some ways, I know how she feels. I, too, am one of the estimated 22,000 homeless students in the city.
It's impossible to succeed unless you can escape being homeless. My grades went kaputz when my mother and I lived in the shelters. I wasn't at all focused on school during those years. I'm not sure what I was focused on. I was just floating in space. I don't have any inspiring stories. I just got through it. I didn't really have anything to hold onto. I honestly don't even remember much of the 8th grade. If you can get back on your feet, you are back at the starting point that everybody – or at least most people – start at. But getting there is hard.
When people think of the homeless, most can only think of the seeming vagabonds that stink up entire subway cars and beg for change on the street. They don't think about the aunt that lives with them from time to time, or the office worker that somehow gets there first everyday. Being homeless doesn't mean that you live on the streets, but it does mean you're one step closer to doing so.
I was about three when I first lived In the homeless shelter. I had no idea at the time, but my grandfather had just thrown my mother and I out on the streets. At the time, all I cared about was our new apartment. It was nice, and I had my own room. In the common area we had a large couch, where I could be found glued to an equally large TV. There was even another boy about my age just above us. I didn't ask the big questions: Where's my Father? Why don't we see our relatives? My mother purposely kept me unaware of these things.
The last thing my mother wanted was for me to feel poor and underprivileged, even though we were. She spent her time putting me in this little bubble, while she would fight for our happiness everyday. But she was beaten, tired, and everyday, she would come home angry or depressed with the scars of her trials. I was never able to help my mother, because I never knew what she was going through. I honestly don't know what I could have done.
We were always bouncing around a lot. We went back to the New York City shelter system when I was in middle school, in 7th grade. We had a room that was a lot like a studio apartment. It was very pristine and orderly, extremely orderly. There were room checks when you were gone and fire drills. We had very little freedom. You had to sign out to leave and you were limited on how often you could leave.
When I read the New York Times profile of Dasani, I realized how different life can be for homeless students. We were on different planes in the same city. I have three siblings, but they were adopted by the city. I can't see them. I see my father sometimes. There are times I won't see him for years, then I'll see him rapid fire for a bit. I can't remember the last time I saw him. Dasani has her family with her and a lot more freedom in the shelter where she lives in Brooklyn, but she doesn't have a great place to live. I lived in a much nicer shelter in many ways, but it was like an asylum. So there's a really big contrast between our lives: horrible freedom or wonderful oppression. Maybe that's the best way to say it. Neither is ideal.
I don't think my mother and I are totally back on our feet yet. We're still picking up the pieces. We moved out of the city shelter three years ago into transitional housing. My mother managed to get a job despite not graduating from high school. She works in medical billing now, but we live in constant fear of moving. We almost lost our place this month. You always have to be ready. You don't want to set up too much. You are always worried. I don't have anything older than about a year. I try to keep things, but it never works out. It's hard to keep things when you move so much.
Most of the things I've gotten come from Ms Hedaa, founder and director of the Hunts Point Alliance for Children. I'm not quite sure how we met, but Ms Hedaa has been a constant in my life. She's always there. And if she isn't there, she comes back. When we moved into the shelter, she would give us numbers to pantry after pantry so we were never hungry. She was always a call away. Then she helped to get me into a semi-boarding high school where I am now a junior. I live with my mother on the weekends.
I think the number one problem for many people living in homeless shelters is getting started. When you're in the shelter system, it's hard to prepare for a career that will set up a decent paying job. Looking for a place to live is hard. Your job options while you're in the shelter really don't match the apartment options. I doubt you have much chance of working in a hospital while living in the shelter. My mom didn't get her job until we left.
We receive food stamps and other types of aid. I try to hold any job that I can, but it's hard to get jobs in the recession. The last thing anyone wants to do in this recession is give a teenager a job. I have done some work this year as a tutor.
I don't think I was dealt a bad hand in life, but I think I was passed a bad hand from my mother. But it's OK because she also slid an ace down my wrist and told me to save it. She is the ace. As long as she's there, no matter how terrible my hand is, we make it through.
Hunger Games: UK refuses EU food aid, leaving 1000s in dire straits VIDEO
Homeless Persons' Memorial Day: a Day That Shouldn't Exist VIDEO
When a homeless person dies in Los Angeles and no relative claims the body, the person's body is cremated. Once a year, all the remains of bodies that are unclaimed, are then buried together in an unmarked grave. How I know is because I researched after a friend of mine died. My friends name was Joseph, and if you've heard me speak, you've seen me end my presentation with his story. Joseph was lucky. We were able to get him into housing, so he didn't die on the streets. But when I heard that he was going to be buried in an unmarked grave ,I decided to honor Joseph by telling, now tens of thousands of people - about his life.
Around December 20th of each year, National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day is celebrated at churches and homeless shelters all around the country. Some places just light a candle and say a prayer, and others go all out to honor the lives of people who died on the streets of their community.
I'm not sure how National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day started, and to be candid - I don't really care! I believe it's a good thing, and I completely support National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day with honor and respect, as every community should. But it's a day that SHOULD NOT EVEN EXIST!
NO ONE should died homeless. NO ONE! The truth: we can end homelessness! The trouble is, and this even makes me more frustrated - it's not drug addiction - not mental illness - it's not even the lack of affordable housing - the biggest challenge to ending homelessness is getting people communicate, collaborate, and work together on comment goals.
We have learned that what worked 10 years ago, and even 5 years ago, does not work so well today. Homelessness has changed. Everything has changed. We have learned that keeping a family in their apartment, instead of that family hitting the shelter system, tremendously helps the family (especially kids) and saves taxpayer money. We have learned that placing people in bunk beds in one large room, and then running them though a "program", is not nearly as effective as helping the person get their own apartment, and then working on whatever issues the person may have. I could go on and on about what we've learned, yet we all see homelessness increasing. Why? People are scared of change, and in many communities - stakeholders would rather fight than coordinate with others for more impact.
Today I was invited by EHC Life Builders and Destination: Home to a memorial honoring those who died in homelessness in Santa Clara County. I have visited before, and each time I see the gorgeous memorial outside of their shelter, with all our homeless friends names listed, but this time is the first time I have attended their service. 48 people died while experiencing homelessness in 2013 in Santa Clara County, which is one of the wealthiest regions in America. The oldest person was 80, and the youngest person just 19 years-old. To me, that is unacceptable.
When I asked Jennifer Loving, executive director of Destination: Home and champion of Housing 1000, about the 5 people who died last week she respond "That's just it. You can't live outside. You can't live outside for long periods of time, and if you do--it's going to kill you", which is the very real truth and why every community needs to make the single most important priority.
Homeless Persons' Memorial Day messes me up like you will never know. I had two friends die this year.
Both would be alive today if they were in housing. Catherine should have never been placed into
winter shelter because that was a death sentence for her, and the agency knew it. Trouble was,
the agency could not place her, which was a problem in homeless services system that eventually
caused her death. Meet Catherine
Please join us for a moment silence to honor the lives of people who never should have died while experiencing homelessness. When you're done, I hope that your sadness slowly turns into anger and you'll make a commitment to work with your community to end homelessness!
Filmmaker predicts danger on eve of homelessness assignment where he died living rough VIDEO
Film-maker found dead while sleeping rough during homeless documentary died of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome
Lee Halpin, 26, had been staying in a derelict house in Newcastle as part of a film about life on the streets
A young film-maker who was found dead while sleeping rough for a project on homelessness died from natural causes, a coroner said today.
Lee Halpin's unresponsive body was discovered by a homeless man he had befriended in a derelict house in the West End of Newcastle, where they had slept during a bitterly cold spell in April.
Mr Halpin was making a film on life on the streets and planned to sleep rough for a week.
An inquest in Newcastle found he died as a result of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome after a pathologist ruled out other causes.
Coroner Karen Dilks concluded that Mr Halpin, who was hoping to win an internship with Channel 4 as an investigative journalist, died from natural causes.
The day before he started making his rough-sleeping film, Mr Halpin recorded a poignant message as part of his application to Channel 4, and posted it on YouTube.
He said: "I am about to go and spend a week being homeless in the West End of Newcastle.
"I will sleep rough for a week, scrounge for my food, access the services that other homeless individuals in the West End use.
"I will interact with as many homeless people as possible and immerse myself in that lifestyle as deeply as I can.
"I hope that you perceive this to be a fearless approach to a story.
"It certainly feels brave from where I am sat right now, about to embark on this documentary tomorrow morning.
"It has certainly caused a huge amount of trepidation among my family and friends who do think it is a brave thing to do.
"That's the impression I want to leave you with about my willingness to get to the heart of a story."
The inquest at Newcastle Civic Centre heard that Mr Halpin spent one night sleeping near a city centre roundabout, and was then invited by a homeless man called Daniel McEwan to spend the next night in a derelict property in Westgate Road.
The next morning, Mr McEwan found he was cold and unresponsive and raised the alarm.Detective Sergent Nick Walker, who investigated Mr Halpin's death, said the derelict building had no heating and it was so cold he could see his breath when he went inside.
Mr Halpin had been to a city centre pub the night before and drank alcohol, but was not drunk and consumed far less than a lethal amount, the inquest heard.
The only drugs found in his system were anti-depressants he was prescribed following the break-up of a relationship.
DS Walker told the coroner that Mr Halpin was apparently healthy, but had placed himself in an unfamiliar situation, undertaking "a hard lifestyle at the time when the UK was experiencing particularly cold weather".
But he did not die from hypothermia, Dr Gemma Kemp, a specialist registrar in forensic pathology, said. She also ruled out any third party involvement in his death.
After telling the coroner that Mr Halpin died from Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, where his heart stopped despite not having any obvious disease, she added: "This is a diagnosis of exclusion. You have to rule out everything else."
Dr Mary Sheppard, a national heart expert from the Royal Brompton Hospital, looked at the case and agreed with Dr Kemp's findings.
The coroner said Dr Mary Shepherd advised: "This could have occurred at any time or place. The circumstances in which Lee was living played no part, in her opinion."
Coordinated Entry Helping Los Angeles House Homeless People VIDEO
The poorest being abused by evil ConDem sanction trap VIDEO
600,000 aren't looking for a job or so say the tory scum and filth
Britain's failed housing system leaves victims living out of a box VIDEO
Kevin homeless in Chicago VIDEO
50,000 British face eviction over ConDem scum and filth's bedroom tax
Tories / Libdems social cleansing on the grandest of scales even Hitler would be proud of. So
where will they go next? the nearest gas chamber?
More than 50,000 people affected by the so-called bedroom tax have fallen behind on rent and face eviction, figures given to The Independent show.
The statistics reveal the scale of debt created by the Government’s under-occupancy charge, as one council house tenant in three has been pushed into rent arrears since it was introduced in April.
Figures provided by 114 local authorities across Britain after Freedom of Information (FoI) requests by the campaign group False Economy show the impact of the bedroom tax over its first four months. The total number of affected council tenants across Britain is likely to be much higher than the 50,000 recorded in the sample of local authorities that responded to the FoI.
At least another 30,000 people living in housing association properties have also fallen behind on rent payments since the bedroom tax came in, with potentially tens of thousands more also affected, according to separate research by the National Housing Federation.
Barrow in Cumbria was the worst-affected area, where more than three-quarters of all council-house tenants have fallen into arrears since the bedroom tax started. In Clackmannanshire, Tamworth and South Kesteven more than half of all affected households have fallen behind on their rent since the charge was introduced.
The shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Liam Byrne, said: “These appalling figures prove that while this government stands up for a privileged few, a debt bombshell is exploding for a generation of people.
“While the nation’s millionaires get a huge tax cut, thousands more now confront arrears and eviction from which they’ll never recover. This is final proof that the hated tax must be dropped now.”
Responding to the figures highlighted by The Independent, Mr Byrne told the BBC that "thousands and thousands of our neighbours are being pushed into foodbanks and into the hands of loan sharks because of this vicious policy”.
"The vast majority of people living in these homes are people with a disability. Hitting largely disabled people with this horrific tax and plunging them into debt - surely the message and the conclusion is very clear - we need to drop this tax, and drop it now," he said.
He asked where people should move to, highlighting research published by the Labour party earlier in the year that suggested there were not suitable alternative homes for 90 per cent of those affected by the bedroom tax.
The bedroom tax penalises tenants if they have a “spare” bedroom by reducing their housing benefit by up to 25 per cent. As emergency funds from councils dry up, experts warn the situation is expected to deteriorate further over the coming months. The latest revelations are a further blow for the policy after a judge ruled last week that those with a smaller extra room would be exempt from the charge.
A smaller survey published last night found that one household in four hit by the bedroom tax has been pushed into rent arrears for the first time. Just over half of the 63,578 tenants of 51 housing associations were unable to meet their rent payments in the first months of the new system, according to research by the National Housing Federation.
The United Nations’ special rapporteur on housing Raquel Rolnik called for a rethink on the policy after finding the reform was causing “great stress and anxiety” to “very vulnerable” people.
Clifford Singer, campaign manager for False Economy, said: “Together with the raft of other benefits cuts the Government has forced through both this year and previously, the bedroom tax is driving tenants and families who were just making ends meet into arrears, and pushing those who were already struggling with the cost of living into a full-blown crisis.”
Only 16 of the 114 local authorities who responded to the FoI request have a “no-eviction” policy, meaning many thousands of families risk losing their homes as a result of the bedroom tax.
The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “The bedroom tax is not saving money. Instead it is pushing up rent arrears which will force councils to waste more cash on evictions, debt collection and emergency support for homeless families.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “The removal of the spare-room subsidy is a necessary reform to return fairness to housing benefit. Even after the reform we pay over 80 per cent of most claimants’ housing benefit – but the taxpayer can no longer afford to pay for people to live in properties larger than they need. It is right that people contribute to these costs, just as private renters do.”
Toni Bloomfield, 25, lives in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, with her partner, Paul Bolton, 42, and his four children.
“I have to pay £98 extra a month since the bedroom tax came in,” she said. “We’ve got a four-bedroom house and Paul’s four children, aged between two and eight, live with us. Before the school holidays we were struggling and now we’re nearly three months behind on rent.
“The children get free school meals and feeding them through the holidays was tough. Paul and I are only eating in the evenings two or three nights a week to make sure we can put enough food on the table. We're not working, but not out of choice. Trying to find a full-time job here is a nightmare.”
One more family homeless in America (The land of the free?) VIDEO
Why is Obama spending billions on his spymasters at the NSA, billions on worthless space junk for NASA and trillions on global warmongering via the Military Industrial Complex when millions of
families are struggling on the streets of America?
WARNING: This video will mess you up!
Being on a road trip focusing on homeless youth it was important to tell the story of the homelessness you don't see - the millions of American families living in weekly rate hotels just barley one step from street homelessness. In fact, when I met this wonderful family today, they were packing up to leave and live in their car. The hotel had given them one day's grace, but they were completely out of money with no place to go. I am still emotional thinking about it even hours later. Truth is, thousands upon thousands of families face being evicted from a hotel to the streets every single day! This family was lucky. I tweet out what I call a "Hail Mary" and a generous heart stepped up and donated a weeks stay. That too messed me up!
Michael, Danielle, and their six children live in one hotel room near St Louis. Michael works a full time job, and they used to rent a house, but their landlord didn't pay the mortgage. After the bank took the property back, Michael, Danielle, and their six children were evicted with no place to go.
Hotel homelessness becomes a trap. Hotel's cost more than an apartment, but you can move right in without deposit, and a hotel room is far better than the streets. Once in, people who are considered the working poor, have an impossible time trying to save up enough money to afford adequate housing. Often these hotels are not a good place for kids to grow up.
There is a lot of emotion in this video. I get messed up throughout, but when the parents start talking about having to run in to the bathroom to cry so the kids don't see - I'm done! I am pissed that families have to live like this and heartbroken because I can literally feel their pain. I don't speak about this much, but I was raised by my mother and we went through some hard years when I was young.
If I could get you to watch just one video all the way to the end, and then share, this would be that video. This family is filled with strength and love, and has the courage to share their very real story about the homeless you don't see, but need to see!
Huge thanks to the generous donor who helped pay for another week's hotel for this family.
Special thanks to Paul Kruse, who helps these families every single day of the year http://www.firststepbackhome.net
Helping America's Homeless Youth VIDEO
Obama to busy throwing money at NASA, NSA and the Military Industrial Complex
to the tune of multi-trillion American dollars
Increase of Schizophrenia in Homeless Youth VIDEO
Robert and Elizabeth homeless in San Francisco VIDEO
Road Trip To Help Fight Homelessness VIDEO
Homelessness is a global epidemic VIDEO
Male homelessness is a far bigger threat than ALL of the so called TERRORIST threats
People Living in Vehicles Need a Safe Place to Park, Not Fines or Jail VIDEO
Sheryl, James and Kalynn homeless in San Diego VIDEO
Andre homeless in San Diego VIDEO
Joesph homeless in San Diego VIDEO
Nonprofit Recycling Center That Employs Homeless People VIDEO
Johnny homeless in San Diego VIDEO
David homeless in San Diego VIDEO
T.J. homeless in San Francisco VIDEO
Poverty trap: Brits turn to food banks amid austerity and economic downturn VIDEO
Shane homeless in San Francisco VIDEO
Daniel homeless in San Francisco VIDEO
David on the streets of America VIDEO
San Francisco's 2013 Homeless Count VIDEO
Richard homeless in San Francisco VIDEO
Fujji on the streets of San Francisco VIDEO
"They call it a hotel but it's an insane asylum" Fujji says about the Baldwin Hotel in San Francisco. Roach infested, rats, ceiling tiles falling down, holes in the floor, and garbage all over are just a few of the reasons Fujji and his wife felt living on the streets would be safer and cleaner.
In the room they lived in you had to turn on the water from below the sink. After making requests for repairs and getting no response, Fujji stopped paying rent.
Over a decade ago, during my first month of homelessness, I stayed in this type of hotel. When my money ran out (I paid for a week) management gave me the option to work at one of their other hotels in Hollywood in exchange for a room. This seemed like a smart move because I didn't want to live outside, but what I thought was a plan turned into a nightmare. The owners of the hotel were nasty people with no conscious regard as to how people should be treated.
As a TV producer I once snuck a camera into Los Angele's infamous Ford Hotel. The hotel is now remolded, but at the time it was like out of a horror movie. I remember walking into a bathroom and watching hundreds of roaches run up the wall from a bathtub. You can not even imagine how horrible the Ford Hotel was at the time, yet it was home to many low-income families with children.
We have a serious affordable housing crisis in this country. We need more low-income housing, but that housing should also be fit for humans to live in. Sadly, there are people who care more about money than people that take advantage of those with little influence.
People like Fujji and his wife, who both are on a fixed disability income, should be able to find a clean and safe place to call home!