With every crisis, we see the same comment; “Look after our own first”.
I have been fortunate to visit many European cities, both East and West. I have only found Budapest, to have a similar homeless issue to Swansea. In the UK, we have some of the very poorest people on the continent. In Wales, we are the poorest part of the United Kingdom. There is no doubt at all that there are very real issues here in Swansea.
So, it is a very fair and valid point to say that we should look after our own. We should be making sure that the poor in our own country are OK. We should ensure that they are safe. That they have access to food, water and shelter.
This shouldn’t be an either-or conversation though.
There are 24,423 second homes in Wales. They are homes which (generally) wealthy, comfortable people spend holiday time in. There are 23,000 empty homes in Wales. Again, these are often owned by wealthy people who can ‘sit’ on them until the time is right to sell.
It is a grotesque ‘norm’ for this to be the case. Something we no longer question.
In the last 20 years, Swansea council tax paid £300,000 to the Duke of Beaufort to build a bridge over HIS river. Because 400 years ago King Charles II gave his family the rights to the river Tawe.
There are 2,491 millionaires in the UK. 54 billionaires. Yet the starving ex-serviceman on the street is somehow the fault of an Afghan child?
Smoke & Mirrors
The rich and powerful have for too long been able to control the conversation. It is no accident that the working class argue about whether to help the poorest Afghans or the poorest in UK. It is a smoke and mirror illusion to the real issues.
During Covid the very richest have become even richer. The same during the banking crisis. The same during Brexit. The same regardless.
Why does the homelessness conversation only poke its head up when we talk about immigrants or refugees? Why isn’t the daily conversation about the sick differences between our ex-military heroes and our billionaires?
Swansea homeless stats
Swansea has the resources for there to be no homelessness. The reality is that we choose to have homeless people. We allow holiday homes down the Gower. Rich owners of second homes and a taxation system which encourages it.
Over the coming days, weeks, months, and years the conversation about refugees v homeless ex-military personnel will continue. The reality is that as a society, we can pick two out of the following three:-
Support the super-rich with second homes
The common conversation will take the last one as a ‘gimmee’. We will simply argue about the other two.