One night on the street witnessing Britain's homeless crisis – as it happened

Join us as we meet people sleeping rough across the UK and ask why the situation has become so bad

1.16am GMT

Comes from Perry Gough, 37, from Bristol. Just after midnight, he crawls into his sleeping bag in a nook above a Bristol bowling alley. His evening had consisted of him grabbing a cup of soup from volunteers and then huddling down in the doorway of an RAF recruitment office. In the 14 years he has been homeless following a relationship breakdown Gough has been beaten up and burned.

Someone set my hands on fire – they thought it would be a laugh. I feel safe here though now.”

“Same old, same old every day,” he said.

1.16am GMT

That’s just about it for tonight. Thank you for staying with us. If you’re homeless, I truly hope you find somewhere warm tonight and some toehold in a future that is safe and secure. It’s clear from what we’ve learned tonight that this is not a lifestyle choice, but something that happens to people, often the wretched result of a wicked combination of factors. And it may get worse before it gets better.

Government must do more. We must do more. But for now I’m going to leave the last word with a homeless man from Bristol. Good night

1.10am GMT

Morag remembers the exact date she became homeless. “It was the 8th of May last year,” she says. She’s the youngest person I speak to at the end of the evening, and she’s only 17 years old.

I didn’t realise it at the time but I was suffering from bipolar disorder,” she says. “My step-dad is old, 71, and he likes things just so. He made it very clear that I couldn’t ever come back, but I still speak to my mum.”

I was quite scared to begin with, but the men were actually really nice. I got on with them fine.”

It’s just a bit horrible being homeless. I want my own house where I can do my own thing and handle my own washing.”

1.02am GMT

Before we wrap up, a couple of tweets.

Firstly, back to Josh Halliday in Birmingham, where it’s bedtime

12.53am GMT

So how do you get out? Once you’re on the streets how do you come back in from the cold?

David from Leeds was homeless, but isn’t any more. He tells us what helped him come through years of prison, drink and homelessness.

I was married. I lived with my wife and another alcoholic, Alf. She was his carer and I’d go down to the Crypt to pick him up. I was more of a house alcoholic – I managed it. My wife got cancer and I couldn’t cope with caring for her so I took the coward’s way out and left.

When I found out she died I drank more and more and ended up at the Crypt. I met my second wife there. We got married at 9am and she was on a bus by 2pm. She’d left me. All on the same day. I went to the solicitor to get a divorce. ‘Have you consummated your relationship?’ he asked. We hadn’t, but I’m still not sure if we’re married or not.

Since then I’ve basically been in and out of prison – drinking, prison, trying to stop but never succeeding. The alcohol always rears its ugly head.

The Crypt has given me so much support, much of which I don’t feel I deserve. I’ve been banned for life nine times, yet they still always let me come back. They’ve never forsaken me. No other agency would work with me, but they’ve never given up.

They’ve always given me support, especially Ian on the van. Now they give me a bit of routine and discipline. They’ve put up with me when I’ve been difficult and always done their best by me. They’ve helped me get my own house, I help out volunteering on the van and they’ve also helped me get a housing support worker. I’m 54 now, so this is my last chance. I’ve had more comebacks than Frank Sinatra. I just hope that a year from now I will still be abstinent and hopefully have a job.

12.44am GMT

Where is the crisis headed next?

Helen Mathie, Head of Policy with Homeless Link, warns that rough sleeping will get worse when the next round of welfare reforms are introduced. She predicts there could be a lost of thousands of bed spaces and the closure of many homelessness services as a result.

In last year’s Spending Review the Government outlined plans to cap the amount of rent that can be charged in social housing to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates, the amount of housing benefit people receive in the private rented sector. LHA rates are generally much lower than social rents, and in particular are much lower than the rents for supported housing.

Supported housing is the term used to describe emergency and longer term housing for those with additional needs: many have poor mental health, may be recovering from substance use, or have previous contact with the prison system. This accommodation is a lifeline to not only improving their health and independence, offering support into employment, but also in preventing people otherwise ending up in expensive acute care, back in prison, or on the streets. Supported housing has been shown to save money to other areas of public spending, and make a huge difference to people’s lives.

The proposal to cap rental income at LHA rates threatens to shut thousands of these units for homeless people across England. The reason LHA is inadequate is that supported housing costs more to run than general needs or private sector housing: there are higher costs associated with a high turnover of tenants; for keeping properties safe and secure; and for adaptions which might be needed to accommodate those with complex health needs.

Based on evidence from Homeless Link and Sitra’s members across the country, we know that if they go ahead, the LHA caps would force many homelessness services to close their doors. Feedback from over 50 agencies providing over 10,000 bedspaces for homeless people in England, shows we are looking at an average projected loss of income of nearly £60m per year for these services alone, an average reduction of 62%. At a time when homelessness services are already struggling to meet demand, and numbers of rough sleeping are rising, we cannot afford to lose these critical services.

Moreover, taking into account all the other types of accommodation which would also be affected – refuges, drug rehabilitation, housing for ex-offenders, sheltered accommodation – the scale of the impact cannot be over-estimated.

12.36am GMT

Until Emma found herself homeless and living in a shelter with 25 other adults, she had never so much as shared a communal living room with flatmates. The 37-year-old had only ever lived by herself or with a partner.

But then you split up with your partner, he owns the house, your daughter stays living with him, he remarries and I literally had to make myself homeless to get any help,” she said.

Thus I got into the system. I wouldn’t have lasted five seconds out there,” she says. “being in here’s certainly opened my eyes.”

Sometimes it’s like, please give me my normality back. A lot of people don’t know I live here. I used to host dinner parties. If I brought my friends here they’d think I’m off my fucking nut.”

I want to be able to give something back. If I could help someone it would seem these last couple of years weren’t a waste.”

12.26am GMT

At the Harrogate homeless project hostel, camp beds have been made up on the floor of the meeting room, with three more people sleeping on sofas in the communal lounge. The hostel will be full tonight with five more rough sleepers who will come here as part of the ‘No second night out’ project, which has had more than 600 referrals in the three years it has been running in the town, giving people temporary emergency accommodation and support.

I had everything and I lost everything. I had a business which meant I could buy Bentley’s and Rolls Royces, I thought nothing of buying my wife a £2,000 dress. And I lost it all. I would come out of fancy restaurants and pass by people on the street, and think they were bums. And now I’m one of them. I know what people think of me, because I used to think like that.”

I was so ashamed, I didn’t speak to anyone at all about what was happening. You think you know what it means to be cold, but you don’t know what it’s like to be on a park bench at 2 in the morning, knowing you can’t get warm until 9. I couldn’t face another night of walking around in the cold. But they took me to the emergency shelter and I’d never seen anything like that before. I’ve never been around drugs, it was just horrendous. If I was 20 years younger, I might have seen the appeal of it, because I am suffering. But now I know it’s not going to solve my problem. It’s the hours that drag by, doing nothing, which is so hard. You get a meal at lunch time and you can’t go to the shelter until 8pm. You walk around for hours in the cold, nothing to do.”

It’s like being in a shared house. I like the rules and the order, it’s what I want at the moment. Eventually I want my own place, my own job, what everyone wants really but this place is what I want right now because it’s where I can get support, where people will fight for you to get housing.”

It’s so expensive but it’s home so what are you supposed to do? I tried leaving but I wanted to come back because it’s my home. Other than this place, there’s no help for you. It’s frowned upon to live here. But I grew up on a council estate in Bilton, not everyone here is upper class. Rents are about £90 a week in private housing, I get £60 a week, around that, in housing benefit. I shouldn’t have to leave my home town.”

Just drinking, partying every night. I hit the bottom of the barrel,” he said. “The turning point was actually admitting I was struggling, just telling someone my mental health was not great. It was a shock to admit that. But here I can get my head together a bit. You make close friends, you feel like the others are watching out for you.”

12.21am GMT

There is not just a hyperactive revolving door between the streets and prison. There is a similar two-way valve between the streets and hospital, and very often just not enough of a system to cope with the in-out traffic.

Cat Whitehouse of the Pathway organisation said:

There is a dismal revolving door between the streets and hospital. When someone loses their home, their physical and mental health can rapidly deteriorate. Injury, illness and hospitalisation follow.

After treatment there is no rest for the homeless patient, s/he is unceremoniously discharged onto the street, stitches that need to be kept clean get dirty, people who need nursing care sleep on concrete.

Eventually the public stop passing by, realise someone has collapsed, and the person returns to hospital by ambulance; infected, malnourished and exhausted, to undergo further treatment and repeat the cycle again.

12.16am GMT

On separate patches yards from each other near Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre, brothers Skar Bantges, 28, and Juke Hyde, 38, sell drawings to make enough money for a B&B for the night. “Normally I get £20, £30 a day – because I’m not a raving smackhead I get in a B&B for £17 a night. Anything on top of that gets me my baccie or a bit of weed,” says Skar.

12.13am GMT

Since Streetlink began in December 2012, it has received 125,000 phone referrals from members of the public who have seen a rough sleeper and want to let authorities know their location, so that an outreach team can be sent to help them, Kate Lyons reports.

We have four beds for women, and 24 for men, which reflects national statistics on homelessness. The majority of homeless people are single men,” he says. “There are different levels of support within that, but everyone who lives in our residential care has a support plan.”

What is worrying that we don’t have a rough sleeper count in Scotland,” he says, adding he believes there has been an increase in rough sleepers in the city.

My heart for the homeless goes back to my childhood and witnessing people in the rough. Things were at their worst during the 80s, and the bit in London where the IMAX cinema is now was an awful place, as well as around the back of the Savoy, where there was free parking.

We encourage a sense of family,” Paul says. “People come to the house and say it’s happiest they’ve ever been.”

Tonight was a little quieter than normal, but we still saw about 25 people. One lady with pneumonia, and another man who was discharged from hospital today who we were very worried about. We had a death a few weeks ago in the homeless community here, so it is a constant worry when rough sleepers get ill. All of them tonight were very grateful for hot food, soup and jacket potatoes.

I was really angry at an ignorant couple who stopped and shouted at us when we stopped to give drinks and sandwiches to three men. ‘They’re all on benefits and you lot are feeding them, it’s a disgrace.’ This is the kind of attitude we are trying to change – the perception that all homeless are ‘on the make’ or ‘beggars’ – we are all just human after all!

11.56pm GMT

Of the 26 people who live at the St Mungo’s shelter in west London, 11 are women.
“When you look at our women there’s a very high correlation between domestic violence and homelessness,” says Ophelia Kingshott, development and implementation manager at the shelter.
Lisa, 52, is one of these residents who has had a domestically violent partner – “I was beaten with baseball bats,” she says. But after long-term abuse, she was finally prompted to go to the police after she lost her dad.

He was my world and he is my world, so I just walked into a police station and then disappeared from the area.”

One time I had an epileptic fit while riding my bike and I woke up in a park with my leggings removed and my shoes off and it was the most terrifying feeling in the world because I had absolutely no idea what had happened to me. That’s what it feels like to sleep on the streets.

If you lie down to sleep you’re more vulnerable, so if you sit up, like you’re reading a book or waiting for the bus, its safer, you know what I mean?”

11.47pm GMT

Radik, 38, seems to have his life sorted as much as a homeless person can do. Unlike many other people sleeping rough, he takes all of his worldly possessions around with him – on his bike and trailer.

I have a laptop, a tent because of the Scottish weather, a camping stove to make hot drinks, a sleeping bag, and a chair,” he says.

I sleep far away from the city centre so my things don’t get stolen, and I never stay too long in the same place,” he adds. “For now I am happy,” says Radik, “I don’t want to be homeless forever but I need to make the best out of my situation.”

I’ve only been back on the streets for a week,” she says. “I’m sleeping in a bin room behind this building, it stinks but it’s away from the elements.”

The church is a major help too,” she says. “It’s difficult being a woman out on the streets because I don’t like staying in the shelters or hostels. They’re filled with pissed blokes who try and touch you up. It’s safer to take care of yourself.”

My partner at the time, Dawn, she lost twins and I never really dealt with the emotional impact of it,” he says, shivering

He lives with his girlfriend and I don’t want to disturb their lives,” he says.

I’d love to get a house and a dog, a border collie. I wouldn’t have one out on the streets though, it’s far too cold. Dogs need to be warm, safe and dry,” he says.

I left accommodation and ran away to live in the hills for a few weeks because of mental health issues and couldn’t get rehoused because that’s how the council classified me,” he says.

That is just wrong.”

11.34pm GMT

It is not just on the national level that homelessness and housing is a hot political potato. It will be a theme of the Bristol mayoral campaign this spring.

The people on the streets are the tip of the iceberg. There are the invisible homeless – people sofa-surfing or in very unstable accommodation. We dread to think what is really going on out there. It is a homelessness crisis. We need the city to prosper and flourish but you cannot do that while so many people are being left out of it.

The mayor has developed a reputation for getting things done, You’ve got to ask what has he got done. George is the mayor for fun. I’m all for fun. You’ve got to get the basics done. The fun is undermined if you’re having to step over a homeless person to get to the party.”

Homelessness is growing across the UK as a result of a number of factors, and the high number of rough sleepers in Bristol has become one of our most pressing concerns.

People who are sleeping rough or ’sofa-surfing’ face daily problems that are difficult to understand for those with more comfortable lives.

We must all come together to tackle this growing challenge. There is help out there from a range of organisations, so if you know anyone you think is at risk, make sure they seek advice and support as soon as possible.

We have a duty to help all those struggling to keep a roof over their heads get their lives back on track, and I am grateful to our many partners in helping us to try and tackle this crisis.”

11.19pm GMT

Out on the streets of Birmingham, a little ingenuity can make all the difference.

We make a den here every night. Can you feel it, feel how warm it is?

10.58pm GMT

Let’s take a quick moment to salute the heroes of the night, all the charities, volunteers, helpers and recovered homeless who give of their time to make a dismal situation not quite so dismal.

First stop, Birmingham, and the Choir With No Name again. Here, Josh Halliday speaks to Sally Debiage, who runs the show

They can come with a sad face and leave with a happy face. It’s pretty much guaranteed.

You do it because it needs doing. The need is there, we have a spare room so why not?”

You don’t get many compliments in this job,” laughs Liz Hancock, manager of the Harrogate Homeless Project. “But everything it throws at you, you have to handle with good will and humour, even when it’s really, really sad.”

There’s a lot of youth homelessness, people in their early twenties who have left because of bad family circumstances and have been sofa surfing. And the drugs are changing too, before the main problems were heroin and alcohol. Legal highs are bigger problem now.”

There’s always people who really get under your skin who you worry about, you hope they’re doing well, you root for them because you know they really want to turn it around. This job is never just about finding people housing. They may have health problems, emotional issues, addiction, family and relationship breakdown. Housing is just one part of it.”

10.57pm GMT

Another woman who became homeless after problems with her partner is Hannah. She was the grateful recipient of a plastic cup of vegetable soup and some sandwiches from the good people of the Bristol Soup Trust at Redcliffe bridge. Late as it was, she still did not know where she was going to sleep. The shelter she usually uses closes on a Thursday night so her options were limited.

“I feel let down,” she said. “There are so many empty buildings in this city. Why can’t they open them up so that everyone can get a bed. There should be a place for everyone to stay.”

There was a time when I knew 80% of the people on the streets. Now I probably only know 10%. The scene has changed – there are more people from Eastern Europe, more refugees.

Bristol is popular with homeless people because they can get plenty to eat and drink. I once worked out there were 70 places where you could get free food in the city.

10.41pm GMT

“Some people call me the intellectual,” laughed Terry Stott, as he finished his evening meal at the Harrogate Springboard centre at the Wesley chapel. The 56-year-old recently spent his first night at the theatre, watching a play at the Harrogate Theatre about homelessness called Parallel, having met the cast before opening night.

I write poetry, I read so many books, I write songs, I go to Knaresborough to play guitar in the studio when I can. I want to learn about theatre, art, poetry and culture. I want to know about the renaissance. But, to be honest, at the moment, my circumstances are really dire.

I served three years after a five year sentence,” he said. “I was doing methadone, heroin, crack cocaine, you name it. I was eight stone and nearly dead. I’ve spent 30 years of my life in prison. But this time I got fit and strong, and I was clean and fresh. I wanted to start again. And then you come out, and I spent my first two nights in the emergency shelter, with people who are falling about drunk. And it was sheer hell.

I could stay with friends but they will be using. I really, really don’t want to be around them but it’s hard. This is the reality though.

There’s so many more people. It’s like the programmes about the Night of the Living Dead. If you’re looking, you’ll see the same people, 20 or 30, just walking around like zombies, walking because there’s nowhere to go. It could be homelessness, it could be drugs, it could be depression. I suffer from anxiety myself. And it’s so sad because this is a beautiful town, with the gardens and the architecture and the tea rooms. Why doesn’t society care? I would love there to just be some recognition.

10.39pm GMT

Homelessness and rough sleeping are principally male preserves, but growing numbers of women are being affected.

One thing that’s often missed in the conversation about homelessness and rough sleeping is women’s homelessness, and its links with childhood and adulthood abuse. Research by Agenda shows that one in five women who have experienced extensive physical and sexual violence as both a child and an adult have been homeless at some point in their lives.

For these women, mixed-gender hostels or day centres can be hugely intimidating and sometimes unsafe. Women who rough sleep are more likely to hide themselves away or stay on the move, on busses for example, because of concerns for their safety. Many get involved in prostitution, or enter into violent and unwanted sexual relationships simply to get a roof over their heads.

While I was in prison I lost my house, my daughter went into foster care. I’ve been homeless for two years.”

So I said, OK you’ve got to help, tell me what to do.

She’s big now. I was a single mother for eight years, but now I’m homeless, I don’t have a flat, I’m not a good mum, in the eyes of the social worker. I’m fighting every day with the social worker, she’s the reason I can’t see her.”

10.34pm GMT

We’ve been hearing from readers who’ve been sharing their stories about supporting homeless people.

Fran Hughes has told us there just aren’t enough shelters for young homeless people she works with in Bristol:

One of the toughest parts of my work with young homeless people is spending a day or often several days desperately trying to help them find a bed somewhere, anywhere that is relatively safe and warm and away from the harsh winter weather and then having to give them a sleeping bag and personal safety advice in the knowledge they will be sleeping rough. There are not enough beds let alone warm comfortable homes for those that find themselves on the street.

What I love about it, is that it is so simple. We simply offer a bed and a meal. I know it is only temporary but it buys time for somebody. In the NE Nightstop is run by DePaul and they are amazing in the way they work to find permanent accommodation for people. Inevitably I think that we are the main beneficiaries as we meet people who we would otherwise never meet and that enriches our lives.” Read more …

The numbers we are supporting on the streets is steadily increasing month to month. It’s also worth noting that over 20 London boroughs have Church shelters running through the cold months, many people using this service will return to the streets once the season is over.” Read more …

10.18pm GMT

Stephen is another ex-army man in precarious circumstances. He has been sleeping rough in Balerno, just outside Edinburgh, for some weeks. He describes an almost picturesque scene — his spot in a wooded forest, a secluded area underneath evergreen foliage where he sets up his £3 windbreaker each night.

It’s nice, it’s quiet, it’s a way out of everywhere,” he says, explaining why he often chooses to sleep rough. “It’s a hidey-hole off a path. But the other night I lost my bus-pass so I can’t get out there at the moment.”

My wife hasn’t spoken to me since we split up,” he says. “My behaviour, my drinking, it became worse. I became argumentative, abusive – not physically but certainly verbally – and she just, quite rightly, had enough. She went to the police and got me physically removed.”

I got my own flat on June the 27th last year until November. I couldn’t cope. The only person I spoke to on a regular basis was the guy at the corner shop who sold me my little bottles of vodka,” he says.

On the streets I’m still quite lonely but there’s always someone to talk to,” he says.

10.05pm GMT

Of course, rough sleepers are just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands more find themselves one step away from the streets, still homeless but nudged around by authorities from pillar to temporary post.

For many of it may be hard to imagine how this happens. But we’re probably all of us just two or maybe three really bad strokes of luck away from destitution.

In December 2015 my contract came to an end and I decided to become self employed. I am a qualified sports therapist studying to obtain my personal trainer qualification. I set up my own business in January.

On 4th January 2016 I attended the Margate Gateway Services Centre to ask for help in paying my rent. I was told I couldn’t apply for housing benefit and had to apply for universal credit on line.

I applied on line and was informed that I would be contacted to attend an appointment.

I hadn’t heard anything from for a week so I phoned the help line to which the recorded message tells you if this is a new claim it will take 5 weeks to be processed.

I phoned them again the following day and eventually spoke to someone and made the application over the phone. Halfway through the application he informed me that as a student and as a self employed person I was not eligible to claim universal credits and had to claim JSA (job seeker’s allowance) and this had to be made online.

I went online to make the application for JSA and on answering the qualifying questions I was informed I was not eligible to claim JSA and that I had to claim Universal credits.

I phoned Job Centre Plus and made an appointment to speak to someone about what I could and couldn’t claim.

I attended the appointment the following week only to be told that because I earned more than £102 a week I wasn’t eligible for income related JSA and that as I was self employed I wasn’t eligible for Universal Credit and that I needed to attend the Gateway Service Centre in Margate to make a claim for housing benefit.

My landlord had been understanding but now I’ve been told it will take up to two more weeks for the claim to be processed – and there is no guarantee it will be backdated. By then I will be 11 weeks in arrears.

I informed the housing office that I am already 9 weeks behind and now facing the real possibility of being evicted in two weeks due to non payment of rent. I was told if I was made homeless, as a fit healthy male I am not a priority and that if I were made homeless I would just have to deal with it as there was no help available to me. Council housing teams no longer deem homelessness for males who are fit and healthy and able to work as a vulnerability.

So… having joined the army at the age of 16 and 9 months, served 8 years for my country, having worked every day of my life and paid taxes and contributed to the economy, having decided to build my own business and help others get fit to return to employment, I asked for help as I was starting out and needed to pay my rent… only to be given the wrong information action resulting in at present 9 weeks rent arrears, facing the prospect of homelessness and being told by the local council (due to government legislation) basically…. tough, you will just have to deal with it.

9.45pm GMT

I’ve been speaking to Bill West, 57, and Lee Foxall, 48, both living in hostels after finding themselves on the streets in recent years. Both men had long careers looking after others – Bill as a operating theatre technician in the NHS and Lee as a support worker – until they suffered devastating breakdowns following family bereavements.

We get people with autism, strokes, their parents or partners died, peopel who’ve had learning dififculties, so it’s not like what TV says, pretending it’s all drink and drugs. It’s not like that.

9.42pm GMT

Given the level of anger and accusation below the line, it is only fair to invite the government to respond to allegations that austerity and indifference lie behind this latest crisis.

People who find themselves homeless are some of the most vulnerable in our society and it is essential that they get the support they need.

During the last Parliament invested over £500 million to prevent households becoming homeless and we made significant progress so rough sleepers can get back on their feet.

9.31pm GMT

Just as worrying: refuse collection companies are reporting a rise in the number of people sleeping in bins.

The waste management firm Biffa provides a clear insight into the growing problem. Its staff discovered 31 people sleeping in bins in 2014. This rose to 93 in 2015 and then for the current financial year the figure has risen even further – to 175.

“The more homeless people we get, the more people need to find shelter in waste containers. It is a growing problem for the UK not just our company.” Staff check every bin now before emptying it into their disposal vans.

9.26pm GMT

Here’s an interesting/worrying sign in a car park in Bristol. “Rough sleeping, begging and other anti-social behaviour, crime and disorder will not be tolerated in this car park. Anyone found engaged in these activities will be banned from the premises. If such bans are ignored Bristol city council will seek enforcement by way of a court order, breach of which could lead to a custodial sentence.”

9.21pm GMT

Michal is an example of an east European who hasn’t always found it easy in the UK – but doesn’t want to give up.

My partner still lives in Poland,” says Michal, who became homeless shortly after moving back to the UK a month ago and losing his job. “She’s waiting for me. I’m too embarrassed to call her and tell her I have no money. I was so unlucky, just before I lost my job I sent all of my savings back home.”

Yesterday I spoke to many people and there’s a lot of jobs going, but they want to see my CV, so today I’ve prepared it,” he says. “The ideal job would be in construction or on a farm out in the countryside.”

There’s no Polish schools here, and my English isn’t good enough to teach British people but I liked learning about the bloody battles and I like video games of battles too – some men never grow up!”

9.12pm GMT

There’s been plenty below the line tonight to suggest that people think a key cause of this homeless spike is immigration, so let’s focus on that for a few minutes.

The truth, as ever, is far more nuanced, as the Guardian’s Amelia Gentleman reports:

If it is clear that work is not realistic for a number of reasons (support needs around mental health, substance misuse or simply lack of language, skills and social skills) we will always try to help people make the big decision to reconnect to their home countries,” Eammon Egerton, an outreach worker with St Mungo’s, explains.

9.06pm GMT

The Homeless World Cup is set to be held in Glasgow in July of this year, and yesterday trials were announced for the team which will take place in later this month and into April.

We’ve got 30 programmes a week and we’re servicing over 100 players,” says David, “We work with people affected by poverty and often homelessness. It’s super diverse, from 16-year-old girls to 68 year old men from Latvia!”

We have drop in events like this one which anyone can come down to. Once they’re engaged with it, they have personal development training, and they can progress to being volunteers.

I set it up in 2009 and because I’d experienced homelessness in my early 20s. It was after my Dad passed away and I had cut myself off from friends and family. I actually played at the Homeless World Cup,” David says.

Our aim is to inspire change, promote change and let the people who play be in control of it.”

8.54pm GMT

Ray Braithwaite has dropped by for some hot food with his girlfriend. The 40-year-old has been in Harrogate for 22 years, moving here from Grimsby.

The port town which has any drug you could want to lay your hands on,” he said. Braitwaite was in care by the time he was eight, and spent his first night out on the streets aged 13.

I started taking drugs when I was 12, and I was 33 when I decided I needed to sort my life out. I’d seen it all by that point. Now on the streets I’m seeing the generation below me. The sons of the people I knew, I don’t want to see that. I want to help them, I just wish there was something I could do.”

She was the breath of fresh air I needed. I didn’t know how to ask for help until I met her.

It took me a long time to get to speak, but they finally saw me with my hand up and I spoke. And they had to acknowledge they don’t know it’s just homeless people urinating in public or causing the trouble. People are blinkered sometimes, they look through you and think you’re a bum.

8.50pm GMT

A quick word on international comparisons. Of course, this is not a British disease. Guardian data journalist Pamela Duncan reports that France has a comparable problem – around 81,000 homeless and just under 8,000 rough sleepers.

She has also drawn our attention to this ready reckoner, but I can’t really vouch for its accuracy. In any case, rough sleeping data for Europe has been transformed beyond all recognition by the migrant crisis so that official figures will be fairly meaningless. Still…

8.34pm GMT

“We lost five people recently,” says Andrew Faris, the founder of Rhythms of Life, the cafe for homeless people in Hackney.
“Nicky’s gone, Shaun’s gone, Michael’s gone…” he says. The men were sleeping rough on the streets of London and were lost to starvation or hypothermia. Shaun, who had been sleeping rough in Ridley Market, was only 23 when he died.

8.28pm GMT

Homelessness isn’t just confined to inner cities and down-at-heel parts of the country.

8.17pm GMT

Streetwork’s Crisis Centre in Edinburgh is a hidden little place, down near the Cowgate in the centre of town, but earlier this morning there was a queue outside the building. Their services – which include hot showers, washing machines, locker rooms and tasty pastries provided by the Manna House Bakery on Easter Road – are in demand.

“We’re especially busy earlier on because we fill in the gap after homeless people get kicked out of shelters – which are often churches in Edinburgh,” says Mike Bell, project manager at the centre. “There were probably about 15 people waiting this morning to have access to storage, shower, and link up with practitioners.”

This will give you a good idea of the scale of the problem,” says Bell, taking me through to their storage room. “These are purely for people who are street-based. One person, one compartment. It’s not a lot of space to have your whole world in.”

8.14pm GMT

Still in the capital, Rhythms of Life community cafe in Hackney serves hot meals to homeless and disadvantaged people three nights a week, and lunch on Fridays. It’s one of many charities aiming to help the homeless of London. On any given night in autumn 2015, the last period for which figures are available, there were about 940 rough sleepers in the capital, which accounted for 26% of the total number across the country. The number of rough sleepers in London has increased 27% in the last year alone.

“Organic broccolli,” says founder Andrew Faris, who slept rough himself for a period. “It got delivered yesterday.”

8.11pm GMT

Indeed, music as therapy is a big part of the homelessness scene. Guardian contributor Naomi Larsson writes about a London programme that, like many of its participants, faces an uncertain future.

Homeless people have been writing and recording songs in a London studio for seven years, having a safe space for creative self-expression. These songwriting workshops are run by company Lupus Albus using the recording studio in the basement of St Mungo’s Broadway hostel in Endell street. With close guidance from a tutor, the clients create and record a song, and come away with a CD of their own music.

But these workshops are now under threat of closure. Since St Mungo’s and Broadway merged in 2014 the charity has had to make cuts to services – songwriting workshops are no longer a priority.

Natalie Pilato from Lupus Albus believes creativity is “fundamental for someone to have a sense of self-worth and understand where they fit in society”.

“It’s important to commit to something, especially for homeless people who are used to having disrupted lives,” she says.

7.49pm GMT

In Birmingham, around 30 people are huddled in Carrs Lane Church, in the city centre. The two things they all have in common? They’ve currently homeless or have spent time on the streets – and they love belting out a good song.

7.39pm GMT

Amelia Gentleman, who wrote a moving piece about homelessness this week, has been asking Sarah Macfadyen, policy manager with homelessness charity Crisis, for the reasons behind this new spike.

More and more households are struggling to pay their rent in an increasingly insecure market – the loss of a private tenancy is now the number one cause of homelessness in England. Meanwhile cuts to housing benefit and local authority homelessness services and the implementation of benefits sanctions have left the safety net in tatters.

The rise in rough sleeping is devastating- the realities of life on the streets are truly horrific: the average age of death of a homeless people is just 47, which is 30 years lower than the general population, while people who sleep rough are far more likely to be dependent on drugs or alcohol or to suffer from mental illness than the general population. Physical health conditions are common, particularly respiratory problems.

Homeless people are over nine times more likely to commit suicide than the general population, deaths as a result of infections are twice as likely and they are 13 times more likely to be a victim of violence.

We know that the economic downturn and the long term housing shortage has played a role, but what our research clearly shows is that political choices have a huge impact on homelessness. Recent research by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation showed that benefit cuts are taking a dreadful toll on people’s lives, with rising numbers facing the loss of their home at a time when councils are being forced to cut services.

The Government has made positive steps towards tackling homelessness in recent months, but the latest rise in rough sleeping is a stark and sobering reminder of how much needs to be done.

We urgently need a change in the law so that all homeless people can get the help they need. The shocking truth is that even in the 21st century, homeless people who ask their councils for help are being turned away to sleep on the streets. We also need to see funding protected and, critically, a wide-ranging reform of private renting

The best thing to do is to call Streetlink on 0300 500 0914, which helps connect rough sleepers to outreach services in their area. You can also donate to a local homelessness charity or volunteer.

7.24pm GMT

Growing up in Nigeria, Adekola Adepoju – or Kola to his mates – appeared destined for greatness. He was top of his class in almost every subject, representing his school in everything from debating to dance (he does a mean robot).

I believe there will always be challenges but I don’t let the negative thoughts weigh me down,” he says in the homeless drop-in centre, Sifa Fireside, in Birmingham. “I keep focusing on the positives. I know I don’t pay for the air that I breathe through my nose so I thank god for that. I always think: today will be hard but tomorrow will be better.”

“That’s what rendered me homeless,” he says. “I had my laptops. I couldn’t carry all my luggage. That’s when I went to Birmingham and went to sleep in the park in Selly Oak.”

“There was five or six people – I could not beat five or six people. They beat me and removed by laptop, another took my phone, then they were gone”.

“You can only go up or go down. David Cameron does not have three heads – he has one head just like me. It’s because of the decisions he took that got him where he is today. We determine our outcome by ourselves every second, of every hour, of every day.

7.22pm GMT

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of people sleeping rough in Bristol. Ninety seven were recorded in the latest street count – the highest number outside London. In 2013 and 2014 the figure was 41; between 2010 and 2012 it was just eight or nine.

7.14pm GMT

If you’ve experienced homelessness, or work with homeless people, we’d like to hear from you. You can share your stories with us by clicking on the ‘Contribute’ button on this article. We’ll include as many as we can in the live blog.

Otherwise, stay with us as we take a quick tour of the country and find out who our correspondents have been meeting.

7.07pm GMT

First things first: the numbers. Counting the homeless is not straightforward. There seem to be at least three different measures. Firstly, rough sleepers. This number is a snapshot of people sleeping on the streets on any given night. It was recorded at 3,569 in England in 2015 – double what it was in 2010.

7.04pm GMT

Good evening. Welcome to this rolling report about homelessness and rough sleeping.

Continue reading…
Source: Blog

Leave a Comment

Let us know your thoughts and comments on this post.