Shelter and the world of white homeless privilege

Just because you live on the streets doesn’t mean you aren’t a beneficiary of structural racism

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The biggest homeless charity in the UK appears to be teaching its staff that white people who live on the street need to check their privilege because they benefit from white supremacy. This is the latest Wokeyleak from a source inside Shelter, which manages some £70 million ($96.3 million) in donations a year. The charity subjected employees to over 12 hours of excruciatingly woke Zoom tutorials on such edifying topics as ‘Mitigating Whiteness at Work’. Extracurricular reading included courses on ‘Learning How To Apologise’. Some of Shelter’s diverse staff objected to this controversial critical race…

The biggest homeless charity in the UK appears to be teaching its staff that white people who live on the street need to check their privilege because they benefit from white supremacy. This is the latest Wokeyleak from a source inside Shelter, which manages some £70 million ($96.3 million) in donations a year. The charity subjected employees to over 12 hours of excruciatingly woke Zoom tutorials on such edifying topics as ‘Mitigating Whiteness at Work’. Extracurricular reading included courses on ‘Learning How To Apologise’. Some of Shelter’s diverse staff objected to this controversial critical race theory training but were told that participation was ‘not optional’. Every single one of Shelter’s executive team, incidentally, is white. Shelter has denied that they tell homeless people that they suffer from white privilege, but their CEO Polly Neate, who earns around £122,000 a year, has previously tweeted that homeless white people perpetuate structural racism and benefit from privilege because of the color of their skin.

According to our source, some black staff members objected to this training but were ignored. ‘Some have tried to voice concerns that they are uncomfortable being lectured on racism by their employer,’ says our insider, ‘but they are being ignored — often by white colleagues!’

Our whistleblower decided to come forward to The Spectator because they found it unconscionable ‘that an organization whose responsibility it is to be help some of the most vulnerable in the UK would discuss those people in terms of “white privilege” without any consideration that homeless people don’t benefit from any privilege at all.’

The Spectator has seen internal Shelter emails explaining that advice centers for homeless people are being shut down in the Thames Valley due to lack of funding. And yet at the same time the charity is committing significant time and resources to this bizarre woke agenda. In Bristol, Shelter advice centers will focus their work on women and families only, with men excluded even though white men disproportionately make up the rough sleepers in the area. Even more resources are being spent on a ‘diversity and inclusion’ data capture system, whereby all people who come to Shelter with housing issues will now be asked a series of questions about their race and gender and whether they are trans. The charity has even spent £4 million on a trendy rebrand to try to appeal to woke millennials and Gen Zs as most of their support currently comes from people aged over 40. All this is taking place as the UK is in the middle of a housing emergency due to COVID-19.

We asked Shelter to justify the cost of this rebrand. They said: ‘The one-off investment in the Fight for Home brand campaign, represents just 2.1 percent of our expenditure over that period, which is in line with charities of a similar size.’

Internal documents show Shelter boasting that some 708 staff hours were diverted from helping those with no home to theorizing around identity politics issues. Without any extra pay, staff were required to plow through mountains of reading, from an encyclopedia of microaggressions to a guide on ‘How To Be a Trans Ally’. Mandatory YouTube lectures included one by a white corporate consultant on ‘The human impact of white power and privilege’ in which viewers are told that all white people benefit from white supremacy. The video explains that the key character trait of whiteness is acting with ‘total impunity’, exemplified apparently by Boris Johnson and Donald Trump (I wonder how this genius theory accounts for Kim Jong-un or Robert Mugabe).

The corporate consultant then nimbly pivots into a cautionary module on how to spot Facebook memes that might at first appear to be liberal, but actually conceal sneaky racist subtexts that all but the most highly trained anti-racists might miss. He shows a picture in which the Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai and her father are meeting the Queen, which is overlaid with the quote: ‘Malala used to be known as my daughter, but now I’m known as her father and proud of it.’ He then asks students to try to work out what is racist about the meme. I have to admit I struggled, but it turns out the whole thing is riddled with ‘white feminism’ and ‘neo-colonial tropes’ because ‘it implies that Malala has been saved from a patriarchal culture’. But how else to describe a situation in which a 15-year-old girl had her life saved at a British hospital after she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman for the sin of going to school?

Despite another tutorial video claiming that pushing your employees too hard is ‘a tool of white supremacy’, staff were obliged to do all of this extra work for no extra pay. According to our Shelter insider, some staff members found themselves spending as much as 10 percent of their time ‘doing the work’, which ironically left them much less time to do any actual work helping homeless people. Our whistleblower says: ‘Some staff are spending significantly more than 10 percent of their time doing this work and it doesn’t get questioned. In reducing existing work, we are diverting resources away from fighting housing issues and those donating to Shelter have no idea what’s going on.’

Shelter’s own charter proclaims that they will use donations ‘sensibly and responsibly’, that they will ‘fund work with a demonstrable, positive impact on people’s lives’ and that all their ‘activities are open, fair, honest and legal’.

We asked Shelter to explain to us, and their supporters, how forcing staff to do critical race theory (CRT) training was having a positive impact on homeless people’s lives. They said: ‘We do not train staff on “critical race theory”,’ and clarified that ‘Given that people of color are disproportionately impacted by the housing emergency, we have embarked on an anti-racism piece of work in which we are encouraging staff to find out more through reading and personal development.’ I’m sure you can see the difference.

CRT training emerged out of Harvard in the Eighties as an attempt by lawyers to understand the subtle (and not so subtle) discrimination that made the American justice system more punitive to black communities despite them having achieved equal rights in law. But in recent years, identity politics has mutated the theory in some troubling ways. Today, its main champions are a bunch of well-paid corporate consultants such as Robin DiAngelo. Their business model seems to be a form of woke simony in which they take confession from white business executives and then absolve them of their sins (for the right fee). Since racial tensions erupted again in America last summer, the use of CRT training has been growing in corporations, schools and institutions. But although it may make the bosses feel like they have done something, there are studies that suggest that this type of training can actually increase racial tensions between colleagues.

This is because the theories promoted by the likes of Robin DiAngelo (who is white, though she does apologize for that) are extremely divisive. In her bestselling book White Fragility, DiAngelo teaches that all white people (including the Jews) are racist and complicit in white supremacy. The only solution, she says, is for white people to ‘try to be less white’. Anyone who has had the misfortune of passing a group of Eton boys at Notting Hill Carnival will know that trying to be less white is literally the whitest thing anyone can do.

CRT theorists also teach that the best way to achieve racial equality is by segregating employees and students into different racial groups. As you can imagine, this has caused huge controversy in schools and institutions across America. As part of their ‘7-Step Dismantling Racism’ program, Shelter have also set up white and BAME only groups within the charity. We put this to Shelter and they said that the groups ‘do not work in silos and come together regularly under an overarching equality and diversity forum’, but I’m still not sure Martin Luther King would have approved.

It seems clear that this new form of societal group therapy could have some unintended consequences — such as increasing, not reducing tensions between racial groups. In the meantime, it is boring and patronizing the hell out of employees that are meant to be doing valuable work like protecting homeless people regardless of the color of their skin. If Shelter’s all-white executive team really cared about improving racial inequality, there is a way they could make a measurable contribution — quit so that some people of color could fill their posts. Of the 12 trustees on Shelter’s board, only one is black and he was appointed in November 2020. If anything resembles white supremacy, it’s an all-white gang of bosses getting their subordinates to ‘do the work’ for them.

We asked Shelter if there are any plans to add more non-white people to its Board of Trustees or its executive team. They responded to say: ‘Shelter is committed to diversity at every level of the organization. For every position we aim to embark on wide reaching and exhaustive recruitment processes to ensure we have diverse and experienced candidates for all our roles. We recently recruited a person of color to our senior leadership team and we will continue to work towards greater diversity across the executive team and board.’

Our source says that ‘critical race theory training is just that, a theory. Yet Shelter are rolling this out like its health and safety training — it’s more like indoctrination’. The Spectator has seen an email in which staff were informed by Shelter’s director of services that if they did not subscribe to these controversial ideas then they were not welcome to work at Shelter.

No sensible person would claim that there aren’t racial injustices that contribute to homelessness in the UK. But it is not the fault of homeless white people living on the street today that black and brown people have been historically disenfranchised. Homelessness and its demographics can be broken up in different ways. Most of the rough sleepers are white men. Then there are a much larger group of people who are living in insecure housing. People of color are disproportionately represented in both groups, but to focus exclusively on skin color is to miss the nuance. Bangladeshi and White Irish Traveler households suffer greatly from insecure housing and homelessness in Britain, but Indian households are underrepresented.

There are so many contributory factors to homelessness, from austerity, to mental health, to military service, to sexuality, to arranged marriages, to family support networks, to drugs and domestic abuse. It just feels so simplistic (though extremely fashionable) to focus so heavily on skin color and racism as the key heuristic. Also, given the lack of ethnic minorities in certain parts in the UK, I’m not sure how focusing primarily on race makes any sense for trying to solve homelessness in, say, Cornwall. If I was from a desperately poor, white homeless community in Cornwall, I can’t help thinking that being told by Shelter that I’m privileged because of the color of my skin, might breed in me just the kind of resentment that borders on, erm, racism. If I were an ethnic minority from a demographic that is underrepresented in poverty and homelessness statistics, I can’t help thinking that Shelter’s new obsession with linking poverty to the color of my skin might be quite annoying. And if I were in a government whose policies have contributed so much to homelessness over the last 10 years, I would be highly grateful to Shelter for letting me off the hook by blaming societal racism rather than austerity.

Our source concludes by saying: ‘While I acknowledge the importance of the Shelter’s work, I worry that it is losing sight of its core mission supporting those who need our help the most. Instead, they are becoming obsessed with privilege and the demonization of white people.’ This sounds like a sensible, liberal thing to say, but then there’s probably some sneaky racist subtext in there that one of Shelter’s well paid corporate CRT consultants could no doubt uncover for the right money.

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