According to homelessness and housing issues charity Shelter, there are 320,000 people classified as homeless in the UK, with the number rising by a thousand a month (according to the Guardian newspaper). This has intensified with a combination of factors causing more people finding themselves without a roof over their heads. These factors include rising rents, lack of suitable housing, and a weakened economy owing to the aftermath of the 2008 credit crunch, and now Brexit.
For the homeless forced to live on the streets and in parks, life is unbearable. Many experience mental/physical health and addiction problems, are marginalised by the better-off and face discrimination and outright abuse even. There have been incidences of thugs setting fire to homeless men and urinating on them as they slept.
In Britain, winter is in full swing, with temperatures dropping below freezing now on most nights. People who can go home and warm up with the central heating are understandably frustrated about the cold and chills, but spare a thought for those who only have a tatty and dirty sleeping bag being all that separates them from the harsh icy elements.
StreetLink is a nationwide charity which encourages people to look out for those who are dwelling on the streets and have nowhere else to go. The charity helps connect rough sleepers to services that can help get them off the streets, including emergency shelters and other accommodation. As the harsh British winter continues its relentless grip, readers are being urged to keep an eye for the ignored. If you see someone who is sleeping rough, you can call StreetLink directly on their freephone number 0300 500 0914 and tell the operator where and when you saw the person. The charity will send out a street outreach team to check up on the rough sleeper, and potentially, you could be the one that means that person will not die early and instead see their life turn around for the better. You can also send your notification in via the StreetLink app or their website: streetlink.org.uk
A homeless person has reportedly been found dead under a parked bus on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, local radio station Top FM reports. The body of a 63-year-old man, identified locally by his first name Raju was found this morning underneath a bus parked at a petrol station in the village of Rose Belle in Grand Port district, 10 kilometres west of district capital Mahébourg, in Mauritius’ south east.
It is not yet known how the victim died, or whether he was struck by the vehicle. Raju’s body was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Candos, in the western town of Quatre-Bornes, where an autopsy to determine cause of death will be performed.
The country’s police force have opened an inquiry to get to the bottom of the Rose Belle tragedy.
It is not known how many homeless people there are in Mauritius, but some estimates state around 500-700 nationally.
London, a leader among the world’s cities. A population of eight million.
Frantic, busy, popular, cultural, fast, slow. A giant urban sprawl where everything runs at breakneck speed and even life can ill-afford to catch a breath. People go past each other in a flurry of activity, not a glance or a smile. No-one asks about anyone else, their fortunes or their misfortunes. For those with no fortune in life, the loneliness and dismissal is even more profound. Aside from the casual toss of coins or the countless stares and avoided looks, those who take the streets as home feel as invisible and inconsequential as ever.
Out of many voices, one is captured. On a simple piece of nondescript cardboard, an anonymous individual asks for help. Not to buy a sandwich or get twenty pence for a phonecall, but to feel what the luckier ones feel. Eager to sample the delights of one of the city’s upmarket restaurants or for people to wish him a simple ‘happy birthday’, the owner of the mysterious sign pleads for assistance from a known, yet invisible public. To realise an ambition, just a helping hand to make it happen.
Behind the cardboard voices, capturing the less-photographed side of London and making a social stand against poverty, is a new artist and blogger, known only by the pseudonym ‘IMPREINT’. His latest project sees a visual night-time trip to the nooks and crannies beyond where most tourists and Londoners venture and where their eyes pass over. The solitary cardboard sign, with its well-written and urgent message, is part of IMPREINT’s latest photographic project, entitled CUT OFF – an acknowledgement of the invisible, the homeless, the forgotten – and their ambitions and desires. Taken among the city lights under the cover of night amid London’s distinctive red phone boxes and its bright lights, IMPREINT preserves with their camera the wishes of a down-and-out asking to be accepted and noticed by society. We see neither the sign’s creator nor the audience, but the loudness of the sign holder’s dream rings true amid the serenity and harshness of London’s cold grey streets.
CUT OFF is a long-time concern for the artist, who had previously exhibited works under the titles of “The Space” and “The White Frame Collection”, since his career began more than five years ago. Seeing a world where people were just asking and giving, IMPREINT felt something was wrong. He thought that rather than a give-or-take situation which is the norm regarding the homeless, it needed to be more about equality and letting them speak for themselves. The piece of cardboard became a metaphorical message, a symbol of seeking opportunity to change its owner’s condition while doing their best to bring about that change. Work on the CUT OFF project began in January 2015, which saw IMPREINT take to the streets of London with cardboard signs in tow. While more comfortable with paint and found objects, IMPREINT saw no challenge in arming themselves with a smartphone and camera and getting down and personal with London’s pavements to capture the images for CUT OFF.
CUT OFF is a project that works in its simplicity, yet subtly laced with a deep message. In one way, IMPREINT forces us to confront this reality of life without thrusting it into our faces. While popular culture and urban living has forever linked the homeless person with the cardboard sign, IMPREINT’s work challenges us to sit up and take notice of these often ignored signs, set amid the empty domains of those without roofs. By making the homeless the focus of CUT OFF, IMPREINT has reached out to society in its own terms, making art that opens people’s eyes to the harsh world of street living. IMPREINT has done well in a theme where many artists fear to tread, that of making art reflect on the more negative attributes of society. Not simply to show it on a white wall and say ‘ this is it!’ but to stir in the viewer a need to change their outlook, and perhaps, do something about it.
The artist began their work in the UAE in December 2009, with a wish to make art not just something to be sold at auction or admired by gallery visitors, but to make a social impact, benefitting society and not just depicting it. IMPREINT themselves transcends the default role of artist as name and brand, seeing themselves as not just a person, but a concept stretching far beyond the individual. IMPREINT has exhibited at impromptu art galleries and spaces of creativity all over London, as well as self-created international shows in places such as India, Spain and Hungary.
In about a week’s time, the referee will blow the whistle for the first kickoff at the UEFA European football championship being held jointly by the Ukraine and Poland, the first nations in east Europe to do so. While footie fans from all over Europe celebrate their team’s goals and victories, the stray dogs of Ukraine will not be celebrating. Government and municipal authorities in the nation of 45 million, desperate to beautify their streets and improve the Ukraine’s much-maligned image abroad, are declaring a war. A war on the 500,000 estimated unowned and unwanted canines who call the grey streets and abandoned Soviet-era factories home. A war which has seen 12,000 dogs killed last year alone in Kiev (Kyiv), the capital.
The dogs, many of which are abandoned by their owners who can no longer afford them, are a common sight in Ukraine’s cities. They wander about aimlessly, feeding on rubbish or handouts from sympathetic passers-by. Most urban Ukrainians aren’t too bothered by them; they are part of the fabric of city life, a minor inconvenience, in the same way as pigeons are in London. Politicians however, concerned over the spread of rabies and other diseases from strays, have begun rounding up and slaughtering them.
Reports from local animal activists obtained by the London Evening Standard newspaper claim that dogs are being systematically shot, poisoned and even hung like condemned criminals by ‘street cleaning squads’, paid for out of city and national funds. Tamara Tarnavska, a representative of the charity SOS Animals reports that “in Kiev they are poisoning them, and some are even shot…The poison can take up to six hours to kill the animals so we believe some are very possibly taken to crematoriums and burnt while not yet dead“.
Despite official assurances to end this sickening and barbaric slaughter of man’s best friend, the massacre had reached almost mechanical levels. Ms. Tranavska also told the Evening Standard’s Oliver Poole that mobile incinerators were roaming the streets of Lisichansk town, scooping up the corpses of slain strays and reducing them to ash. Other shot dogs were gutted and skinned to be turned into fur coats and hats, or even animal feed.
Even those dogs lucky to escape the gun or the oven have been delivered to shelters where they are thrown into dirty ramshackle cages exposed to the elements.
After worldwide condemnation, Ukraine’s environment minister called a halt to the slaughter and proffered a £2.5 million aid package to charities to open 200 new shelters for strays as well as for a nationwide sterilisation programme. The money has not been forthcoming however, even though several new stadiums have been constructed in the four cities helping to host Euro 2012 matches.
Despite the minister’s failed promise, there is some hope. An organisation specialising in assisting stray dogs around the world has stepped in to do what it can. Four Paws have sent a team of activists and veterinarians in an 11-vehicle convoy which will travel all over the Ukraine, neutering and treating dogs using funds from donations. These mobile clinics are also offering on-the-spot health checks, vaccinations and de-fleaing/de-worming.
Stray dogs may be popularly seen as scruffy flea-bitten mutts, but they are still animals with feelings. It is because of modern consumerist throw-away culture and people biting more than they can chew, that populations of stray pets exist in the first place. Wholesale cruel butchering of strays, as has been happening in the Ukraine, is something that many right-thinking people have condemned. It is something that will boil the blood and raise the pressure of any animal lover. Yet many would say that,as cruel as it is, such exterminations are necessary to keep down the likelihood of maladies such as rabies transmitting from stray animals and possibly causing human deaths. Ironically, the beleagured stray dogs of Kiev were sentenced to death to improve Ukraine’s image abroad, but blood on the hands is never a good look.
To find out more and/or support the charities mentioned in the article, please visit the websites below: