Monday, June 20, 2022

Vagrancy in the U. K.

 Vagrancy in the U. K.

. . . which I guess is cousin to Anarchy in the U. K.

Anyway, yes, I still exist.  I’ve been busy studying, mainly in Oxford, and also busy enjoying my time here.  I am now in York, taking something of a vacation from my studies.

When I came back to England some weeks ago, I feared the problem with panhandlers and other street people would be much worse than my last U. K. sojourn in 2018.  I did not expect it to be as bad as, say, Los Angeles or Seattle, but Oxford and elsewhere in the U. K. have long been very tolerant toward panhandlers and the like.  So I was afraid it would be bad.

In the case of Oxford, I was surprised to find it has not changed much. But an exception to that illustrates that Oxford is asking for it to get much worse.  

(I did have a disturbing episode with an obviously drug-addicted panhandler attacking me while I was trying to eat in peace in Cowley, near Oxford.  But I’ve not spent much time in Cowley in the past, so I’m not in a position to say whether the situation there has gotten worse.  But I can testify firsthand it is bad!)

The exception is three panhandling women regularly in three spots in central Oxford.  All three use the same passive-aggressive tactic.  They pick a narrow place in a busy sidewalk, then sit and block half of it.  All three spots have barriers that make walking around the women difficult if the sidewalks are crowded as they often are.  Their signs (which look suspiciously similar) claiming homelessness are not placed beside them but in front of them thereby assisting them in blocking the sidewalk.  

If you’ve ever walked around Oxford, you would know this is a really obnoxious thing to do as these sidewalks are constantly crowded as it is.  Trying to walk around Oxford can be annoying and even treacherous without panhandlers willfully blocking the way.

Yet these three women, whom I suspect are part of a racket, are allowed to do this every day as far as I can tell.   Of course, when you allow and enable this sort of behavior, you are likely to get more of it as has been the awful experience of American cities . . . any maybe that’s why there are three women doing this already.

Yet, other than these three, the situation with street people hasn’t changed that much in Oxford since 2018.  I cannot explain why it hasn’t gotten worse.  Perhaps some cultural pond differences are in play?  In any case, Oxford is asking for trouble.  But, as historically the case with the city of dreaming spires, they are fortunate . . . for now.

York is a different matter.  There are definitely more street people than in 2018, even “within the walls” in the heart of York. 

York is foolish to allow this as much of their commerce comes from tourists and shoppers roaming within the walls.  At some point, the increased vagrancy has to discourage tourism and shopping, and that point may be near.  

Personally, I am enjoying my stay in York, but the situation has me making a point to retreat to my room well before dark. (I am thankful it takes a long time to get dark this time of year!)  And I will think twice before coming back to York — if the vagrancy situation is getting worse, how bad would it be if I return?  I may not want to find out.

I say this with sadness as I really love York.

York is still far from L. A. or Austin.  But the city seems to be asking for trouble much as Oxford is.  It would be interesting to see how on target my concerns about both cities are, but I won’t be here in the U. K. much longer to find out.

There are surely factors in all this that this Texan is missing.  Feel free to inform me of them in the comments.

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