Official statistics released last week show that the number of people sleeping rough in the UK has increased for the seventh straight year. A new approach is required to help the homeless create pathways out of poverty.
The figures, released last week by the UK Government, reported an estimated 4,751 people sleeping rough in 2017, up 15% on previous year. The picture was particularly stark in London, where figures rose by 18%, accounting for nearly a quarter of the total number of homeless in England.
Whilst revealing a concerning trend, these figures tell only part of the story. Given that we are still without accurate information for the number of people sleeping rough in communities across the UK, the real figure is likely to be considerably higher. Many, especially those suffering from temporary homelessness or insecure accommodation, do not appear in official statistics.
The causes of homelessness can be equally opaque, from a lack of affordable housing, relationship and family breakdown, loss of employment, to addiction and abuse. What is certain is its devastating impact. According to the homeless charity Crisis, rough sleepers die at an average age of just 47, whilst those living on the streets are seventeen times more likely to be the victim of violence and nine times more likely to take their own lives.
The Government has committed over £1 billion to its efforts to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminate it altogether by 2027. Whilst welcome, these statistics suggest we need to do much more to tackle a crisis that keeps some of society’s most vulnerable people trapped in poverty.
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The Legatum Institute
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