Discussion with activists and politicians confirmed that there is nothing inevitable about this crisisby Eliza Slawther / September 15, 2017 / Leave a comment
Rebekah was kicked out of her parents’ home when she was just 17.
“The bus station was the scariest place I stayed because there were a lot of people going in and out, and even at three, four in the morning there are a lot of people there… people you don’t know,” she recounted. “I didn’t have a phone. I didn’t have contact with anybody. It was really scary. I was really dehydrated and hungry. I would go into coffee shops to get water but I didn’t eat much during that time. I lost quite a lot of weight. People would come up to me and call me a tramp.”
Rebekah managed to receive help from the homeless charity Centrepoint, which supports young people who find themselves on the streets. Unfortunately, her story is becoming all too common. Rates of homelessness in the UK have long been on the rise—and that rise shows no sign of slowing.
According to a new Office for National Statistics (ONS) report, homelessness in the UK has increased by 134 per cent since the coalition came to power in 2010. According to data provided by Homeless Link, there were 4,134 people sleeping rough in the UK at any given time last year, although Crisis puts the number at around 9,100. Things are set to get worse still. From 2015 to 2016 the number of people sleeping rough on Britain’s streets increased by 16 per cent. These figures—already deeply concerning—likely underestimate the extent of the problem due to hidden homelessness: people forced to sleep on the sofa at a friend’s house, or living in squats or in other temporary, insecure accommodation. Crisis has estimated that up to 62 per cent of homeless people do not show up in these figures.
“I didn’t have a phone. I didn’t have contact with anybody. It was really scary”
There is a clear consensus that levels of homelessness are skyrocketing. What is less clear is the exact cause of the problem—and what can be done to reduce the number of people having to sleep rough. Matt Downie, Crisis’s Director of Policy and External Affairs, linked this increase in rough sleeping to “welfare reforms and a severe shortage of genuinely affordable housing.”
Tom Copley, London Assembly Member and patron of the Labour Campaign to End Homelessness agreed that this is an issue of…