(Credit to Moving Space for the image)
and flats that look like this:
(Credit to Luxury Apartments for the image)
as well as views like this:
(Credit to the Guardian's article on the Improving Face of Vauxhall for the image)
and flats that look like this:
(Credit to Boidus for this image)
We are an area, a city even, of the "haves" and "have nots". For better or worse, in some kind of acrimonious marriage, we are forced to live alongside one another. I can't see that changing, £50 million penthouse or otherwise. But what does seem to be happening is that the "haves" are able to afford goods that would previously have been shared by a community as common goods. £50 million might buy you the best flat on the block, and access to "an infinity pool taking up all the ground floor", but it would also pay for a public leisure centre! There will always be disparities in income and access to resources, but must they always be such large disparities? I've supported the nebulous entity, "political liberalism" for some years, but I'm not alone in wondering whether our current form of economic liberalism might have had its day. And no, I don't have an alternative system. I'm not envious or jealous of the £50 million flat owner. Having that much money, I suspect, might lead to one living quite a lonely existence. Being able to afford anything from anywhere or pay for every service from everybody means that one is no longer dependent on anybody. You might be able to swim in peace and quiet in the early mornings, but you'll never see a child make their first splash or watch an elderly person swim more gracefully than they can walk.
A very expensive flat and trappings will probably mean that you never need to walk past the front of Vauxhall Station or use the tube, but perhaps you won't quite be able to escape the alcoholic fumes of those who are not so fortunate. Just across the road from your luxury penthouse (which I don't doubt, you've worked hard to own) exist a number of sanctuaries for the homeless. Vauxhall is privileged to house Vauxhall Cross - Centrepoint (accommodation for 27), Graham House - ThamesReach (accommodation for 69) and St Mungo's, who sometimes set up an emergency winter shelter in Vauxhall. At the station, the familiar logo of the Big Issue offices bears down upon those who wait for the buses.That there are issues with alcohol in Vauxhall is apparent to those who are in the habit of night time wandering. Readers might be forgiven for wondering (looking at the picture above) whether those issues are present inside or outside our clubs. That's not a non-sequitur. The pursuance of the previous government's liberal social policy has resulted in 24 hour pub opening and the ever-increasing availability of cheap booze. For some gay folk, that liberal social policy is important. It keeps the clubs open and the alcohol flowing. But the head of Thames Reach is concerned to highlight the other side of the picture. Homelessness is far less sexy than housing, so whilst plenty of articles mention up-and-coming VoHo, they don't usually acknowledge the presence of those that don't have shelter. The little known issue of super-strength alcohol in Vauxhall hasn't had as wide a mention as the £50 million pad, but nevertheless, still causes the Guardian to produce headlines such as "Super strength alcohol is killing more people than crack and heroin".
Thames Reach are currently running a campaign to increase the price of cheap, high alcohol drinks. These are not drinks that many discerning folk would order from the bar on Saturday night, but they are the drinks that are killing the homeless, our homeless. Mike Nicholas, spokesman for Thames Reach said in the Guardian, "the vast majority of homeless people living in Thames Reach's 59-bed hostel in Vauxhall, south London, are there because of problems with super-strength alcohol.". Jeremy Swain, the chief executive of Thames Reach noted, "Of course, alcoholism among the homeless is hardly new. But what is different is the speed of the deterioration caused by the super-strength drinks. Consuming them is akin to pushing the fast forward on your life.". A can of super strength cider can be bought for as little as 59p and contains 4.5 units of alcohol. Consequently, Thames Reach are campaigning to persuade the government to increase the prices of super-strength alcoholic drinks (not anything that would affect small cider distributors, since most super-strength cider doesn't really go near real apples), and despite considering myself a broad defender of a nebulous liberalism, I think I support them. As I was chatting to a new Vauxhall barber last week, asking him how he liked South London, he lamented "I'm forever being bothered by people asking for 20p or £1, or requests to buy alcohol for somebody who has been banned".
We can't have been the only party to have our sumptous feast at the RVT sports day crashed by a couple of homeless folk. And why not? We had enough food and drink and were happy to share. The event was free, and anybody could walk in the park. But as we were all sitting there enjoying the sun, I wondered whether those folk would still be around in a few years time. Might they have pushed the "fast forward" button on their lives through super-strength alcohol. I don't have an answer or the perfect policy to balance paternalism with liberalism, but I think it's important to keep pointing out the presence of those who are homeless, damaged through addiction and those who are poor. It matters that we live alongside one another or we'll just end up with ghettos on the edge of central London for those we'd rather not see. So welcome, £50 million flat buyer, whoever you are, to London's second Knightsbridge. Your existence might well never be disturbed by the poor, but that does not mean that the poor should not be disturbed by your existence.