Gentrification Nation: The Great British Land Grab.

We are living in very troubled times. Austerity is the name, oppression is the game. I see cranes everywhere building fantastically expensive “Marketing Suites.” This is juxtaposed by rampant homelessness and rough sleeping.

Since the Tories were elected in 2010, rough sleeping has increased by 101% with UK nationals making up 46.3% of those figures . The top 5 nationalities of rough sleepers, in order, are Romanian, Polish, African, Asian and Lithuanian.

The Queen herself is even involved in this property wave. The Crown Estate is an independent commercial business, created by an Act of Parliament. They invest in and manage some of the UK’s most important assets. Her Majesty’s property portfolio is worth a cool £12 billion. Here’s the kicker, the Crown Estate is a commercial business that pays no taxes but rather invests surplus profit to the Treasury for the “nations benefit.”

Surely they could take some of that property and turn it into a hotel for the homeless? Would that not benefit the nation more than investing into the treasury? The UK budget for 2016 is around £761 billion. The £304 million invested into the Treasury is hardly going to make a dent.

Today I was in Dalston, East London, which has undergone a huge wave of regeneration AKA gentrification. I went there to deliver leaflets to promote the REEL TALKS community conference. I met a young homeless man who goes by the name of Leo, you can read his story here.

I gave him a fiver and asked how much more he needed in order to sleep in a hostel tonight. He told me he needed £15 more. As i wrote the story on Instagram I was hearing him beg for money and most of the people did not even acknowledge his existence. Each time he was rejected my heart cried. As i uploaded the image he told me that he was not going to make the money and that he was going to do something illegal in order to make up the rest.

I had a novel idea, instead of me delivering these leaflets I offered him a little job and said that upon completion I would cover the rest of his hostel feels.

He was rapid in his distribution, you could see how much this opportunity meant to him. He cleared out the leaflets in record time. I was impressed and paid him twice the London Living Wage. It started to rain as soon as he finished his distribution. He definitely would not have made enough to sleep at the hostel on his own.

I’m launching my clothing social enterprise JUSTEES soon and I will be paying homeless people a living wage in exchange for leaflet distribution work.

Learn more about JUSTEES at the REEL TALKS LAUNCH EVENT October 27th 2016 6:30–9:30pm. I hope to see you there.