J. K. Rowling, Introduction to One city, 2005
J. K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter novels.
Most of my pre-Potter Edinburgh days were spent in a small block of flats that housed, at that time, three other single mothers. I was very glad to move in, because it was a big improvement on my previous glorified bed-sit, and in my three years there my daughter learned to walk and talk and I secured my life's ambition: a publishing deal. But it was also there that a group of local boys amused themselves on dull nights by throwing stones at my two-year-old's bedroom window; there that I wrestled a drunk man back out of my hallway as he tried to force open the front door; there that we were broken into one night while we lay in bed. And I knew that far worse happened to other people, and people not so far away either; my upstairs neighbour used to pause to chat on the stairs wearing sunglasses to hide her black eyes.
Violence, crime and addiction were part of everyday life in that part of Edinburgh. Yet barely ten minutes away by bus was a different world, a world of cashmere and cream teas and the imposing facades of the institutions that make this city the fourth largest financial centre in Europe. I felt in those days as though there was an abyss separating me from those who bustled past me carrying briefcases and Jenners bags − and, in truth, there was.
The OneCity Trust has identified this separation as a "culture of contentment", which insulates [the more affluent] from the disadvantage experienced by excluded groups and areas'. These groups may include the poor, the disabled, those marginalised due to their ethnicity or, in the words of OneCity, ‘people who feel isolated from others and from the benefits of the city', a wholly accurate description of how I felt then.
Social exclusion affects all of us, whether we acknowledge it or not, because it is on the outskirts of society that misery, despair, physical and mental health problems, and the abuse of the self and others flourish. Every city, every citizen, would benefit directly and tangibly from helping bring down those barriers that prevent children reaching their full potential, keep would-be workers from earning and isolate so many within their own homes or their own heads.
The OneCity Trust has enabled both individuals and organisations to make their voices heard, perhaps for the first time ever, within a city and a society that can seem to have forgotten them. The Trust is now analysing that information and making recommendations for a more inclusive Edinburgh, so that changes can be made to make this city more completely ours − all of ours.
In the past few years, since the stunningly unexpected change of fortune that hit me with the publication of my first book, Edinburgh has often been described as my ‘adopted' home city. […] As it happens, I have never lived so long anywhere, either as adult or child, as I have lived here. Edinburgh is home now, it is part of me, and I had come to love it long before Harry Potter hit the bookshelves. I am proud to live here, and proud that my home city is committed to becoming a more inclusive place. OneCity seeks to unify: I cannot think of a better goal, for Edinburgh, Scotland or the world.
Under the Bridge − The Crime of Living Without a Home in Los Angeles
By Charles Davis, July 25, 2015, theintercept.com
A year ago he slept in his own apartment, but today Charles Jackson sleeps under a bridge bordering Silver Lake, one of the more fashionable neighborhoods in Los Angeles. […] Jackson wants to get off the streets, but as many of those who live on the margins have found, it is easier to lose a home than find another. […] In the city itself, 9,535 people are homeless.
"There's clearly a crisis," said Maria Foscarinis, founder and executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. It is not one confined to Southern California. Nationally, according to her organization, "at least 2.5 to 3.5 million Americans sleep in shelters, transitional 10 housing, and public places not meant for human habitation" each year; another 7.4 million Americans have lost their homes and are living precariously,"doubled-up with family or friends." On any given night, at least 578,000 people sleep on the street, according to federal numbers. As the number of people living in poverty jumped nearly 20 percent over the last decade, the country lost about 10,000 units of affordable public housing annually.
These figures are sobering, but in Los Angeles, advocates for the homeless point to an even more disturbing trend: the increasing criminalization of people without homes. Public officials and business leaders "are looking for a quick fix", Foscarinis told me, and while imprisoning a homeless person may cost more than securing his or her housing, hauling someone away and out of sight creates the appearance of doing something.