Homelessness: Shouldn't We Just Look After 'Our Own'?

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When it comes to housing, most of us just want to sort everyone out because everyone needs a home regardless of who they are. However, occasionally an issue is raised about who the homeless are:

'Are all the homeless people Irish? And if so how can the government find houses for the refugees coming into Ireland and not their own people?'

There are lots of people in high places who benefit from us thinking that the reason for homelessness in Ireland is refugees and other migrants. Or that these people are causing 'us' a big problem. It's understandable why some people believe that, after all the media spreads this message constantly, but it's just not accurate.

It takes the focus away from the root problems of this society. The economic system we have, capitalism, cannot ever provide for all the needs of the people because it is fundamentally based on making the most profit rather than satisfying our needs, like having a home, enough to eat, utilities, clothes, etc. Sometimes these needs are satisfied to some extent under capitalism, but that's only when it coincides with making profit.

There are literally several empty houses for each homeless person in this country. It has nothing to do with refugees or foreigners. Now ending homelessness isn't exactly as simple as just opening up these houses, but it illustrates a critical point, which is that capitalism creates scarcity where there is none. Homelessness despite empty houses!

So it benefits the likes of landlord Minister for Housing Simon Coveney and billionaire media mogul (and tax exile) Denis O'Brien to pit the small people, of all races, nationalities, genders, sexualities, against each other so we blame each other for these problems rather than pointing the finger at the wealthy hoarders who are ruining everything. For instance, it wasn't refugees in government for the last 20 years who decided not to build enough social housing, preferring to create a housing bubble which suited property developers. It was almost exclusively white Irish people.

 

Politicians and business leaders like to talk about 'the national interest' and how 'we're all in this together'. They say this because what else does Danny McCoy of IBEC and Taoiseach Enda Kenny have in common with a struggling single mother or a small farmer scraping by apart from a flag? What could First Minister Arlene Foster and over 14,000 millionaires have in common with the survivors of austerity? That's where nationalism comes in handy, whether British unionist or Irish nationalist  - the finger can then be pointed at the 'foreign' people, the 'other' folk, the ones 'not like us'.

Surely none of us think the geographical lottery of birth should decide whether a person has a good life or not? Every human deserves dignity, no matter where they are from. I was born in Ireland but I had no choice in the matter. If I was born in a slum in Chile then I would still deserve happiness.

Only if we, the vast majority, the working class, unite rather than attack one another can we achieve the free and equal society we all want.

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