New analysis shows number of ‘hidden rough sleepers’ to soar by up to 50% in the next decade.
More than 9,000 people in Britain are being forced to sleep in tents, cars, trains and buses across the country, and this is forecast to increase to 13,400 (47%) over 10 years if nothing is done to tackle the situation, according to Crisis, the national charity for homeless people.
This is on top of the thousands of people already sleeping rough on the streets.
With the prime minster effectively saying this week that if you’re not on the street you’re not homeless, Crisis is urging governments in Westminster, Scotland and Wales to take immediate action to solve the ‘disaster’ while calling on the public to support its Christmas appeal as it opens its Christmas centres.
The research for Crisis, undertaken by Heriot-Watt University, highlights how those experiencing some of the most dangerous forms of homelessness are often forced to hide, leaving them invisible to outreach workers and trapped in a cycle of despair and isolation.
One man tells Crisis how he slept on trains for five years, feeling ashamed and hidden from help while another says he was forced to sleep on buses after being kicked and harassed on the street.
Another speaks of being picked up while inside his tent and thrown over a subway saying: “You get more trouble at Christmas, I believe, than any other time. It’s supposed to be a happy time.”
Those sleeping without a roof over their head are shown as almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence and 15 times more likely to have suffered verbal abuse compared to the general public, according to previous Crisis research.
The charity which marks its 50th anniversary this month, is urging the public to support its Christmas campaign as it opens its doors to an expected 4,500 homeless guests in London, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Newcastle and Coventry, over the festive period.
Run by an army of more than 11,000 volunteers, the centres provide warmth, companionship and three hot meals a day.
Guests get healthcare and specialist advice on housing, work and benefits and an introduction to the life-changing opportunities on offer at Crisis centres across the country during the year ahead.
Meanwhile, the charity has published an evidence review undertaken by Cardiff University and Heriot-Watt University for the first time revealing the best evidence from here and around the world on what works to end rough sleeping.
The review finds the best way to end rough sleeping is by:
- Widely adopting a housing-led approach including the use of Housing First, a programme which gives the most vulnerable rough sleepers their own home and specialist support
- Taking swift action to quickly end street homelessness through interventions such as No Second Night Out. This programme helps get people off the street and into accommodation and reduces the number of rough sleepers who develop further support needs
- Taking a ‘person-centred’ approach by tailoring support to take individuals’ needs into account, such as using personalised budgets to commission services
- Ensuring interventions take account of local housing markets and individuals needs.
Any strategy to address rough sleeping must address these principles and sit alongside good quality short-term emergency accommodation and prevention services, the charity says.
Jon Sparkes, Crisis chief executive, said: “Christmas can be an incredibly difficult time for homeless people. While others are enjoying the company of family and friends, homeless people face a daily struggle just to stay safe and escape the cold.
“For those living in tents and on public transport this battle can last even longer, because they often end up forgotten, hidden from help and trapped in horrifying situations.
“That’s why every year, as well as our regular year-round services, we are here to make sure thousands of vulnerable people have somewhere safe to spend Christmas – and to offer them the first steps out of homelessness for good. This is thanks in large part to the generosity of our supporters and volunteers, and we need the public’s help to make it happen again this Christmas.
“But as we turn 50, we are clear that we don’t want to be needed at all in the future. The evidence we are publishing today shows how it is possible to end rough sleeping for good – we’re now calling on our governments to act on this, and make sure no one needs to end up in such dangerous situations in future.”
In the short-term, the public can donate £26.08 to reserve a place for a homeless person at one of Crisis’ centres this Christmas.