Homelessness is now an ‘emergency’ – that’s according to the Big Issue founder John Bird, who has told ITV News that Britain is facing its worst winter crisis for more than two decades.
Official figures show that the number of people sleeping rough in the South East has almost doubled since 2010. Outreach workers from the charity St Mungo’s say their job has never been harder and blame a combination of cuts to support services and a lack of affordable housing.
The government says it’s investing a billion pounds over the next two years and implementing new legislation to solve the problem, but critics say they need to do more.
The charity Shelter is also warning of a rise in the number of ‘hidden homeless’ – people who may have a roof over their head but don’t have anywhere to call home.
The charity estimates that there are more than 25,000 people in the South East sleeping in temporary accommodation or homeless hostels. They say that figure is just the tip of the iceberg – there are even more people who don’t show up in any statistics.
One of those is 22 year old Carl Dean, who has spent the past six months living in his car in Ringwood, Hampshire.
One country that seems to have found a solution is Finland. It’s the only European country where homelessness has decreased in recent years, and that’s thanks to a strategy called Housing First – a policy to put a roof over people’s heads before addressing any other problems they may have.
It’s an idea being considered in the UK by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, with planned pilots in Manchester, Liverpool and the West Midlands.