Out in the cold on Christmas day: The growing homelessness crisis

Christmas is just three days away, but thousands of people, particularly young people, will be out on the street on Christmas Day, writes Rory Weal.


Christmas is just three days away, but whilst most will be spending it in the warmth of their living room with their family, thousands of people, particularly young people, will be out on the street on Christmas Day, writes Rory Weal

Recent government figures make for grim reading; the number of households declared homeless so far this year is up by 13 per cent from the same period last year.

Thirty five thousand six hundred and eighty households have been accepted as homeless by local authorities since the start of 2011 and many more are projected to suffer a similar fate.

As the festive season looms thousands of people are facing the prospect of a Christmas out in the cold, as government cutbacks throw thousands out of their homes at the same time as an economic storm engulfs the livelihoods of many, with young people bearing a substantial brunt of the crisis.

On Tuesday housing charity Shelter revealed almost 70,000 children will wake up on Christmas Day in temporary accommodation, without a home to call their own.

Commenting on the figures, Kay Boycott, Shelter’s director of communications, policy and campaigns, said:

“It’s a shocking fact that every two minutes someone in Britain faces losing their home. All it takes is one small thing like illness or job loss to push families into a spiral of debt and homelessness.”

The figures from Shelter come alongside a report by another homelessness charity, Crisis, which showed (pdf) that the average age of death for a homeless person is just 47 compared with 77 for the general population.

These figures emerge against a backdrop of rising homelessness on a scale not seen since the 1980s.

Government measures are largely responsible, because as reliance on voluntary services and charities providing housing is rising sharply, the ability to cater for such a rise is falling drastically with a 25 per cent average cut in funding for homeless charities.

For families that are able to keep a roof over their head, the drastic and punitive changes to housing benefit are predicted to push thousands out of major cities in the New Year as they are priced out of many inner city areas, causing major disruption and untold misery to the lives of many.

Figures (pdf) from London Councils suggest there will be an exodus of 82,000 households in London alone. It says this could rise to 133,000 with the introduction of universal credit in 2013 that will cap the total benefits a family can claim.

Thousands upon thousands will be spending December 25th either on the street or in temporary accommodation. In an affluent country such as the UK, it is totally morally wrong for such numbers of people, many young children, to be condemned to such misery on Christmas Day.

The growing housing crisis is set to escalate as the government continues to punish the most vulnerable and needy; it’s time they took action to rescue many more being plunged into homelessness in the New Year.

See also:

Livingstone pledges London Living Rent, saying Boris has “completely failed” on housingShamik Das, December 13th 2011

A third of the country could lose advice vital to preventing homelessnessWill Horwitz, October 19th 2011

Councils and Whitehall must work together to avoid a homelessness epidemicAnna Turley, September 12th 2011

Are Pickles and Shapps misleading the public on homelessness?Jenny Pennington, July 9th 2011

Shelter: Housing benefit cuts will “change London for decades”Liam R Thompson, November 9th 2010

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