On 30 July a man – whose name has yet to be confirmed – died in the lee of a Stoke Newington bus stop used daily by hundreds of locals.
That this could have happened in 2019 in a moneyed area of London is shocking. It is also a wake-up call – but to what?
Much of the reaction to the tragedy has focused on attributing (or deflecting) blame.
Public service cuts and sky-rocketing housing costs are undoubtedly a big culprit; the council’s aggressive tactics – at the behest of the government – of deeming people intentionally homeless puts them on the street; and social attitudes towards homeless people can at times be unkind.
In this instance, it is unclear that any of these easy answers is available: the council did offer accommodation, outreach workers lent assistance, and local people helped, giving the man food and water and reporting their concerns to the relevant authorities.
Perhaps the take-away from this tragedy is the need for us all to be continually mindful of the welfare of those around us so as to ensure that help gets to them at the earliest possible opportunity?
The shock for everyone here is that this man died in front of our very eyes – at a bus stop, on a busy road, passed by thousands of people every day.
But homeless people die all the time, hidden in alleyways, under arches, in hostels and hospitals. These deaths don’t spark the same soul-searching that this man’s has. They should.
Maybe then those in government will wake up to how serious a problem homelessness is and make a genuine attempt to solve it?