Poverty in London


If you work hard enough, you can't succeed.

Photo Credit to Rodney Minter Brown

"If you work hard enough, you can succeed" makes no sense to a person with no social agency or relevant social network. The climb to "success" is pretty impossible, that is, if you don't burn out before you get there. (wherever "there" may be).

Let me explain my thought stream.

It was a Sunday stroll along the Thames, through Battersea Square and park, watching people of all ages, ability and colour, mixing and mingling amidst the sparkling new developments of Battersea Power Station and Chelsea Waterside. Meandering through these multi-million pound, gated flats with helipads, being sold for the meagre sum of £10,000/Sqft, it was clear that the residences were out of reach for the average person, not just in London, but elsewhere too. 

Why am I describing this common landscape of London?

Because the same evening, I was serving food I had cooked, to hungry people who could not afford to buy food. Partnering with SWAT, a ground breaking charity that  provides a much needed service and Indian Women in London's "Living Through Giving" initiative, the evening was to donate, provide and feed. There were long queues of tired people waiting for the food-van to arrive. Tired, but patient. We chatted while we served, but the poverty, the homelessness, the sadness was striking. There were all sorts of people in the queue, students, elders, people who lived on the streets, well suited men and those who were in a chemically induced stupor too, and why not, better to numb oneself from the pain of living on the streets, I say.

To be hungry, to struggle everyday to fulfil this fundamental human need, must be nerve wracking and stressful, yet the people in the queue were polite, respectful, more than I can say about some well-fed people in the landscape! It was a disturbing and starkly contrasting experience, leading to an endless reflection on the kind of society that we live in. The compounding research on rising inequality through unnecessary austerity measures added to my rising despair.

Packets of food, toiletries ready to be distributed.

Packets of food, toiletries ready to be distributed.

In a city with unused homes worth millions, where food is wasted everyday, it seemed ludicrous that there were homeless and hungry people lining up the street every week. How do we justify this?

There are people with vast surplus wealth, millions who have had a leg up onto careers with access to professionals in the industry, where is their input into resolving these problems? A vast number of people don't have social access, do we not owe our sisters and brothers a chance to live comfortably, with basic needs met?

What I see over and over again are emerging networks for the elite, the well-off, those who don't baulk at paying hundreds for a bottle of wine. Where is the transversal support and guidance networks? We are all humans after all.

Lets pontificate less and do some genuine good. Lets break through our personal reservations. Step out of our comfort zone, spend some time with people in despair, find out how we can help, make a few phone calls. Give them an opportunity. 

Shuba Rao