20 May Homelessness abroad is self-inflicted; Ghana’s case is lack of policy direction from successive government
20 May 2021
By Kofi Nketia
Creative director,Regal Media
When I arrived in the UK for the first time, I was excited to finally see the small island which was able to sway over 412 million people, ruled over 23 percent of the world population and as at 1920, covers 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq. mi) of the Earth’s total land.
I wanted to find the mystery why such a small island could achieve this incredible feat. Mind you, because of their dominance ,its constitutional, legal, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread.
My cousin picked me up at Heathrow airport, he didn’t drive at that time, so we jumped on the London underground from Heathrow to Stratford Train station in East London.
My first impression on the London underground was one that was shocking. The reason is, I cast my mind back from where I was coming from and hoped we could also build similar transport infrastructure.
Infact, is mind-blowing that this impressive transport system was built in the latter part of the 18th century , with continuous upgrade and modification.
I was equally surprised that immediately I got out of the train, at the Euston Station, I saw people laying on the floor covered with blanket. I could count over eight of them at that time. I didn’t for once thought that there are people in the UK who sleeps on the street.
I was shuddered.
So many years of living in the UK, I have come across a lot of rough sleepers. I see some on the streets, some also hide under tunnels of major roads. I took my amiable time to speak with some of them to ascertain the reason they sleep rough and have also researched intensively about it.
In the UK, one can confidently say you dare not allow a child who is less than 18 years to sleep on the streets. If you are a parent who is a rough sleeper, regardless of your immigration status, authorities will take your child from you if they uncover that as a homeless person you sleep on the streets along with your child.
The government is aware there are humanitarian and moral reasons to ensure that everyone is housed.
They also know ending homelessness makes financial sense.
There is no country in the world which do not have issues of homelessness, but the difference is the political will to tackle the issue.
It’s estimated that 0.17 percent of the population in the United States are homeless, roughly 553,000 people.
In the UK, there is incredible life stories of people who has landed on the streets, in each case, you will see they are loving and profoundly bereft people who the system tried to put them back on their feet. The system did provide a safety net for them by providing houses to them, some are given temporary accommodation and shelters but because of substance abuse some still find themselves back on the streets.
The stark difference between Ghana and places like the US, UK is that most of the rough sleepers in abroad are self-inflicted.
The authorities do everything within their remit to support people caught outside the web, whereas, in Ghana, the system victimizes the poor.
It is a shaming reminder that Ghana is a broken and blinkered country, it is a callous one. As for prospective presidents, it is a reminder how much better we could and should be.
I have heard politicians who are supposed to know better compare Ghana’s homelessness to abroad. OH! Homelessness is everywhere, it’s even in abroad. How dare you say that to us?
If they are lucky enough not to be affected by this, they should shut up.
Those of us who drive on the streets at night from work in areas like lapaz, kejetia, circle, Tema station and countless places in Ghana can see babies with their mothers sleeping on the streets and shop fronts as if they are not human beings.
When we see people sleeping on cardboard boxes in tunnels or shop doorways –that is lack of leadership. It is clear that there are ways to drastically reduce street homelessness through changes in laws, practice and attitudes.
Yet none of our politicians is serious about the need that homelessness and rough sleeping is omnipresent in Ghana, after all, they say-yes, homelessness is also in abroad.
Infact today the only way you can ignore homelessness and rough sleeping in Ghana is averting your eyes.
When statistics is released about the number of people who sleeps on the streets, we don’t want it to remain statistics but it’s incredibly important that action should be taken to solve the problem. As for what we have discovered about our politicians, they make issues complicated, messy and repetitive.
Politicians splurge out promises, but fails to deliver.