A report released by shelter, leading homelessness charity, shows a shocking rise in the number of homeless people in England: More than 250,000 people in the country are homeless.
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Narration: Christmas has gone but the bitter winter cold has just begun to bite. A report released by the leading homelessness charity shelter shows a shocking rise in the number of homeless people in England: More than 250,000 people in the country are homeless or of no fixed address living in hostels and other types of temporary accommodation, or sleeping rough on the streets. The figures do not include the “hidden homeless”, those who have nowhere to live but do not qualify for, or are refused, formal housing assistance...
SOUNDBITE [English] British Homeless: “I lost my job so I could not afford the rent at the moment so that's why you know I was kicked out by my landlord. That's why I ended up homeless.
Where've you been sleeping?
I sleep out in the park for two weeks now.”
SOUNDBITE [English] British Homeless: “Gives me benefits to carry health check. I take shower every day; I eat regular food everyday; new clothes; it's the handiest place to have our Christmas.”
Narration: Of these homeless people, almost half are children. At least 117,000 English children faced this Christmas homeless and in temporary accommodation.
SOUNDBITE [English] British Citizen: “I don’t understand how you can have, people, kids like that homeless on the street and you want to complain about all of the madness that goes on in the streets. We’ve got so many homeless people but we still got so many buildings being built up and redeveloped but none of those actually help these young people. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Narration: The geographical breakdown of the figures reveals homelessness hotspots in the urban centers. London is worst affected, with a shocking 2 percent of people facing housing insecurity. In cities around the country, homelessness has increased visibly, with many more people on the streets. Government’s Figures suggest the highest rates of rough sleeping are in Westminster, Bristol and Brighton and Hove.
SOUNDBITE [English] Tom Walker, British Comedian: “Sleeping rough has doubled since 2010. Doubled. How many of you've seen? I've known it's there. It's doubled. Hang on a minute. It does not just say the homelessness services have been halved. And yet homelessness has doubled. The funding has halved and the problem has doubled. It's almost like the statistics are related somehow, isn't it? It doesn't matter what you're politics are, one person is living rough on the street. You're government's failed.”
Narration: Every night Around 3,600 people sleep on the streets in England. Precise figures are not available and the real number is likely to be much higher.
SOUNDBITE [English] Bill Davies, Institute of Public Policy Research: “We don't have a clear idea about the extent of the problem because of official statistics do not count the magnitude however research by Shelter and Crisis have estimated that the scale of the problem is around a magnitude of 10 compared to the official figures. So that's potentially a huge problem.”
Narration: In winter, sleeping rough can easily mean death: the average age of death for a homeless woman is 43, and for a homeless man 46, compared with a national average of 77. Rough sleepers are 35 times more likely to commit suicide and are extremely prone to drug problems and permanent psychological damage.
SOUNDBITE [English] Adam Lotun, Disabled People against Cuts: “You're stealing their self-esteem and self-worth you're making them feel as if they're not part of society that they're not valued that they themselves then become disenchanted.”
Narration: Research shows rising homelessness in recent years is caused by high rents, a shortage of housing, cuts to housing benefit and insecure tenancies. In fact, thousands are being forced out of their homes by rising rents and cuts to housing benefit. The biggest immediate factor is eviction from accommodation in the private rented sector. This causes two-fifths of homeless cases in London between 2010 and 2015. The financial issues are often compounded by social problems, mental health disorders or relationship breakdown.
SOUNDBITE [English] British Citizen: “When people are being put into private accommodation, they obviously cannot afford that, so then they will be evicted, and becoming homeless. It's affecting more and more people; young people, elderly, families, everyone like every working class person is being affected by the housing crisis right now. It's just getting worse and worse.”
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Narration: 1.5 million private renters rely on some form of welfare benefits. That’s while, the government’s £25 billion housing benefits budget has been cut by £7 billion in recent years, affecting over 300,000 of the poorest households.
The country has seen a lack of affordable housing developed over the past few decades due to the anti-working class policies of both Labour and Conservative governments. Council housing has been privatized and no new stock has been constructed to replace it.
SOUNDBITE [English] Jeremy Corbyn, Leader, UK Labour Party: “Could I bring a Prime Minister back to reality? The last five years have seen a low level of house building less than half the new buildings that are actually needed. It seems rapidly rising rents, rising homelessness, therefore also higher housing benefit bill and even the CBI says we need to build at least 240,000 homes per year.”
Narration: It is notoriously difficult to be accepted for homelessness assistance in England. Local authorities are only obliged to assist those who meet a strict set of criteria. According to research by several homelessness charities, of the 275,000 people that applied for local authority support last year, only half were accepted. The problem has been reflected in I, Daniel Blake directed by Ken Loach which has been a big success at the UK box office, sparking hot debates in the country.
SOUNDBITE [English] Dialogue of I, Daniel Blake directed by Ken Loach: “When you lose your self-respect, you wont ...
I've been told by my doctor I'm not supposed to go back to work again.
I'm afraid you must continue to look for work or your benefit payments will be frozen.
There must be some mistakes.
If you've been deemed fifth for work, your only option is job sick as allowance.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Ken Loach, English Director: “I think Theresa May when she became Prime Minister spoke words of reconciliation but we know her actions, we know her government. I mean she has been part of a government that has been consciously imposing a cruel regime on people that are the most vulnerable. It's a government of sanction when the sanctions are put in place, people's lives descend into chaos. They become depend on food banks; they cannot cope; we know they are in danger of suicide or self-harm. The story is endless. Maybe on the way to cinema, you saw some examples of this. They government know what they are doing. They don't need a film to tell them. I think we need to change; we need a big change; we need to remove them not talk to them.”
Narration: In reality, economic stagnation along with government austerity measures are driving hundreds of thousands out of job and into poverty. Alongside years of cuts to welfare entitlements, the Conservative Government of Prime Minister Theresa May has recently imposed a draconian welfare cap, agreed by her predecessor David Cameron. This vastly reduces the income of the most vulnerable layers of society.
SOUNDBITE [English] British Citizen: “I'm an ordinary working person. This is a country that I don't recognize anymore. When I look around I see the amount of poor people, homeless people there are around and people have to go to food banks to get food and this is not poor people or homeless people going to food banks, this is ordinary working people like me. Like us. Like the majority of the people around here. That's why we're here today.”
Narration: Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has promised an additional £1.4 billion for housing in England - enough to construct just 40,000 homes. Even if these houses are built, it is far below what is required to meet the real scale of the housing crisis.
SOUNDBITE [English] Tom Walker, British Comedian: “I live in a society where the government does nothing about it apart from cut funding; why is a policeman or an ambulance not stopping and taking him somewhere safe and warm. a society doesn't work if one person is living rough on the street. It's morally bankrupt if it is normal and on the increase and getting worse. And if getting worse, it's more visible and if it's more visible, I have to do more to try to ignore it to be able to get on with my day which means I become part of the problem. Every day I walk pass people who are cold, and hungry and ill and homeless and I don't stop and give them everything I have. Shame on me!”
Narration: For years, England’s homelessness crisis has been an elephant in the room; politicians reluctant to mention it; and much of the media willing to ignore, while thousands of English citizens struggle to have a roof over their heads.