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Rough Sleepers

by Abby Zimet

Daniel Gauntlett, a homeless man in the U.K., froze to death last week on a particularly cold night as he lay outside an abandoned house due to be bulldozed; neighbors had called the police on him once before, so he didn't dare try to get inside. His death sparked headlines, debate about the country's rising homelessness - perhaps 50,000 to 100,000, juxtaposed with an estimated 710,000 empty homes - and criticism of a harsh government policy toward squatters and the homeless, quaintly called rough sleepers. Gauntlett was also remembered in an outraged, heartfelt video from Mark McGowan, a British activist, social critic, performance artist and taxi driver. So Gauntlett's death was noted, and mourned. In America, there are between 700,000 and two million homeless people - too many, too well-hidden, for anyone to count. In Chicago last week, Ricardo White became the 12th homeless person to freeze to death in the city this season. He got two sentences in the local paper because, evidently, the unacceptacle has become the commonplace.

 

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