115 deaths in homelessness: A shameful indictment of the Government

By Finn McKenna

The tragic news of 115 deaths of homeless people in the last year is another serious indictment of this government, which seems increasingly indifferent to the crisis. The data, released as part of a Freedom of Information request, is double the number of those who died in the period between 2019 and 2020. 

Often when we hear statistics in relation to such preventable deaths our minds struggle to comprehend the reality of what this number represents — so many individual human beings with their own unique dreams and aspirations prematurely perished. It means 115 families have lost a loved one. 

Moreover, such deaths represent a type of social murder, i.e. deaths that were caused not by natural conditions but by social conditions that certain people — particularly those in the ruling class — are responsible for creating and maintaining. As far as the capitalist establishment is concerned these homeless people did not deserve the support they so desperately needed by the state.

Downward spiral

Since 2018 there have been 287 recorded deaths of those who are homeless in Dublin. Last year, Dr. Austin O’Carroll published his ‘Interim Report on Mortality in the Single Homeless Population 2020’ which among many things revealed the contemporary risks and dangers of homelessness. For example, people who find themselves trapped in the homelessness cycle for over eighteen months face a significantly increased risk of mortality.

The same Dr. O’Carroll was featured in this year’s British Journal of General Practice. His article ‘The triple f**k syndrome: medicine and the systemic oppression of people born into poverty’ and some of its contents are worth examining. The ‘triple f*k syndrome’ is explained as follows;

“The first f**k occurs by exposing children to trauma caused by poverty; the second is created by blaming those children as they grow into adults for displaying behaviours caused by that trauma; and the final f**k is the pseudo-scientific medical construct of personality disorder (PD). This final f**k belongs to the cruellest of oppressions, as it robs the victim of both their core existential selves and the one factor that could allow them to resist oppression: the social perception of their sanity.”

The essence of this thesis points to the trappings of poverty and the failure of the state to lift those who are socially marginalised out of poverty. This reality is shaped by an ever-growing anti-social economic system that prioritises the super-profits of a small few over the needs of the majority. 

Break with capitalism 

Housing must be decommodified, i.e. it must be provided for human need not private profit. We need a major programme to build public homes on public land, with community oversight and input. The properties of vulture funds should be seized and brought into public ownership.  

It is also true that the issue of homelessness is not simply about housing stock or its accessibility, but is also a question of liberating vulnerable people from poverty conditions so that such people, with all their trauma, can access services and support to heal in whatever way is necessary. 

Capitalism degrades and dehumanises people in countless ways. A socialist movement, armed with a programme and vision for a different society, built from the ground-up, is necessary to solve the many social problems that harm so much of humankind today.

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