While Boris Johnson speaks of a “one nation” Britain, at least five homeless people have died in the last few weeks.
Housing charity Museum of Homelessness (Moh) said that cold weather is just one factor in a problem caused by “a decade of policies designed to punish the poorest in our society”.
One man died after sleeping rough outside the Hilton hotel in Nottingham. On the same day a homeless man is thought to have frozen to death in Yorkshire.
In Glasgow, a man was found dead in a car park. And in Manchester a homeless man died in hospital after being found by a pub landlord.
A man in his fifties was found dead in a park in London at the beginning of November.
In August, figures showed that on average a homeless person dies every 19 hours in Britain.
And an official report revealed that at least 726 homeless people died in 2018. It’s a 22 percent rise from 2017.
Jess Turtle, co-founder of Moh said, “We now find ourselves in a perfect storm caused by austerity, welfare reform, the hostile environment, failure to build council housing and pressure on health services.
“It is this toxic combination that is forcing so many into destitution, homelessness and ultimately causing premature deaths.”
Homelessness is preventable.
But a number of obstacles mean that people don’t have access to the services needed to keep them off the streets.
There have been many calls for the government to take action. But instead, local councils are making the problem worse. A report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism showed that many councils encourage homeless people to rent privately.
But landlords are increasingly refusing to rent to people receiving benefits.
And many night shelters require the service users to have benefits in order to stay there.
Homeless people then can’t move on to permanent housing. Other shelters only take referrals from the council.
These conditions have led to many migrants setting up camps—only to have them cleared by police. The Tories have promised to expand current pilot schemes to end rough sleeping.
But the provisions already in place obviously aren’t working.
Labour has pledged to “end rough sleeping within five years”.
The party’s plans include the provision of 8,000 additional homes for those with a history of sleeping on the streets.
Whoever wins the election next month, there needs to be a movement to demand safe and affordable housing for everyone.