I lived in London for 19 years and there were always homeless people living on the streets, but never in such numbers as it seems there are now. How did we get to a place where the 6th richest country on earth has so many people living in desperate situations? I don’t understand it.
The temptation is to blame a right wing government that have strangled society with austerity. Official figures show a 134% increase in people sleeping rough since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, with evidence that many are people with mental health issues, a problem compounded by the squeeze on NHS budgets that’s taken place under austerity. According to data from this charity, a homeless person dies once every 2 weeks on the streets of London.
It’s depressing and infuriating that the problem caused by a callous political philosophy has become so widespread.
Things are much worse in my new home town of Oakland and San Francisco. Many thousands of people live in tent slums on the side of the road in conditions that should not be possible in the richest society in the world. The wealthy have made out like gangsters in the time since the Great Recession of 2008, with their companies bailed out with public money, easy access to low-interest credit assuring the expansion of their property empires, and immense tax cuts spent on huge stock buy backs rather than increased wages for their labor force while another trillion dollars is added to the national debt. It’s the rest of us who pay for it, with the number of people squeezed off the bottom rungs of society and into the gutters soaring to levels not seen for decades. Something has to give, doesn’t it?
The mountains in North California and South Oregon are mired in smoke from the biggest wildfires in Californian history right now. It's super surreal, a looming threat ever present in the thickened air, and it does crazy, eerily beautiful things to the light, especially at the top of Mount Ashland, where I took this shot.