The changing face of homelessness

By Gabrielle Pickard
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, April 28, 2010
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Disheveled but dashingly handsome, a homeless Chinese man in the city of Ningbo has unwittingly whipped up a flock of female followers for his strikingly "cool" persona and bohemian attire, personifying the changing face of homelessness. Being nicknamed by his horde of online devotees as the "Handsome Vagabond", the "Beggar Prince" and, most often, "Brother Sharp", the young homeless stunner has been dubbed as being the "coolest man in China".


On-line PS version of 'Brother Sharp', who is dubbed the "most handsome" vagabond for his astute sense of style. []

"Brother Sharp" is the latest incident of a contemporary "re-brand" of the term "homelessness", which is resulting in altering perceptions of what was once considered the ultimate symbol of failure.

"Homeless chic" is a growing phenomenon, which, far from being restricted to China, is prevalent in many countries, and is spellbinding the creativity of fashion designers such as Vivienne Westwood, who are incorporating a scruffy homeless theme onto the catwalk, with models made to resemble the likes of "Brother Sharp".

Although it is not just the aesthetical perceptions of homelessness, which are changing, as the class status of modern vagrants is also enduring some radical transformations. Being middle-class and being homeless is a trend that is currently plaguing the streets of Britain and the United States.

Unshaven, grubby and old, possessing an odor of stale alcohol whilst clutching to a bottle of whisky on a park bench or in shop doorway, has been, for years, the common perception of a homeless person. But as the global economic collapse forced many people out of a work, homelessness in the U.K. and the U.S. has had a makeover: young, educated and middle class.

Homeless organizations throughout the U.K. are witnessing a massive surge in numbers of those seeking help who, due to a string of unforeseen misfortune, fundamentally caused by economic collapse and a sharp rise in redundancies, have been forced onto the streets, creating a fresh and sinister class emerge as Britain's new "down and outs". And as demand for assistance increases, charitable donations are unfortunately decreasing, wrecking havoc on homeless charities financial situations.

31-year-old Tracey Roberts has found herself fallen into the category of one minute successfully climbing the career ladder to suddenly plummeting towards rock bottom. Achieving a degree in Mathematics at Birmingham University Ms Roberts had little problem securing a job with a finance firm in 1999. Working her way up to a regional manager, she believed she would be with the company for the next ten years, and on a 32,000 pound salary she had no worries paying the mortgage of her three bedroom semi-detached house in a Birmingham suburb. But it recently all turned sour. After being abruptly made redundant she soon had her house repossessed after not being able to make the payments. Without wanting to turn to her family or friends for help through pride and embarrassment, Tracey Roberts instead, turned to the streets where she has been living for six weeks.

"The worse experience to date was when I took shelter on a particularly wet night in the doorway of a restaurant I not only used to enjoy visiting with my friends but also took clients to wine and dine. It was very late at night and although the restaurant was shut a man who worked there called out "hey sorry love but you can't sleep here". That was when the reality of my situation really kicked in," Ms Roberts told me.

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