I have to admit that I am surprised by this account of homeless Europeans in Time magazine. I never really thought about homelessness in Europe; after all, it's a socialist paradise where the governments take care of everyone </sarcasm>. However, it's apparent that Europe has a homeless problem that is equal to that of the United States (proportionately). A quote from the article:
That Europe's homelessness problem is roughly the same as America's — and that one of the fastest-growing segments of Europe's homeless population is families — is a shock. After all, Europe sees itself as kinder, gentler and more socially responsible than the U.S., with an extensive, expensive social safety net that's designed to nurture and protect the most vulnerable sections of the populace — the kind of people who are thrown to the wolves in winner-take-all America. But that might just be the point: it's easier to be homeless in Europe, where even the down-and-out get social-welfare checks.
What's even more scary is that 3 million is almost certainly an underestimate: most European countries simply don't know where to look or how to count the homeless. Government data are as confusing, and about as reliable, as Big Sid's stories. Austria and Spain have no official statistics at all. Germany, France, Italy and the U.K. have what are best described as estimates, many of them regarded with skepticism by voluntary organizations that work with the homeless. INSEE, France's national statistics agency, admits that its official count of 86,500 is only based on the number of adults that went at least once to a soup kitchen or an accommodation service. FEANTSA estimates that the real number of French homeless is closer to 200,000, but many aid organizations claim that even this figure is too low. The British government claims there are just 596 rough sleepers across the country, but those who work in London's shelters say there are more than 1,000 in the capital alone.
And despite the hostility of the European elite to the notion of the American Dream, it's a dream that still resonates among the forgotten Europeans. A quote from a French homeless woman is highlighted:
Christelle says what she'd really like to do is live in the U.S. "I dream of Los Angeles," she says. "Things just seem better there."
The article discusses the typical European solution to a problemthrow money at itand notes that a solution is going to require more than just money, although it is certainly part of the equation.
Check the whole piece out; it is an interesting take on a subject that is seldom discussed outside the frame of the United States or the third world.
posted on February 04, 2003 06:23 PM
Post a comment