World
24.3.18

The UK Homeless Problem

Photo by Alvin Decena from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/monochrome-photo-of-a-homeless-man-758794/

How would you feel if you were a homeless person? How would you feel if you didn’t have anywhere to sleep safely and comfortably at night? Perhaps the majority of us just cannot imagine this scenario or picture what a homeless person’s life looks and feels like because luckily we haven’t been in their shoes. The reality of the situation in the UK is that the homeless population has increased by 15% for the seventh year in a row. This is according to the government’s “Rough Sleeping Statistics” report from last year, which also reveals that the increase is most significant in London, rising by 18% since 2016.

However, it is clear that homelessness is not exclusive to the UK. For example, in Bogota, Colombia, there are a vast number of homeless individuals begging for a few pesos to buy their essentials, like bread and water. Many others are resorting to drugs to help them forget about the hunger. If a Colombian was to move to the UK, they would most probably be shocked to discover a developed country, with so many opportunities, having such a vast population living on the streets.

We all must compassionately understand that nobody wants to be homeless. In many cases, homeless individuals find themselves sleeping rough because they are facing a major crisis that means they have ended up with nowhere else to stay. Individual and relational factors apply to the personal circumstances of a homeless person and may include traumatic events such as a bereavement, job loss, and personal crises, like break-ups, domestic violence, mental health and addictions challenges, which all can constitute a cause of homelessness.

Sadly, the figures show that a fifth of those sleeping rough last year were non-UK nationals, while 14% were women and 8% were under 25 years old. These numbers should be taken into serious consideration as they are increasing year by year.

Recently, due to the sudden drop in temperatures caused by the “Beast from the East” and Storm Emma, approximately fourteen deaths were registered across the UK. With snow and sub-zero temperatures hitting cities, it’s a dangerous time for rough sleepers, with many deaths of homeless people being reported which have been linked to the freezing conditions.

For most of us, heavy snow is an inconvenience due to slippery pavements or the inevitable transport disruption. Every time temperatures drop, rough sleepers risk their lives just by trying to make it through the night. It’s natural to want to help if you see someone struggling — and they probably will appreciate the offer of a hot drink or some food.

However, what these vulnerable individuals really need is a place to get out of the rough weather. Emergency shelters opened in London because of the cold, advising that the best action the public can take is to make sure outreach volunteers know how to find anyone requiring support. With the right help, people can leave homelessness behind. There are some amazing projects and charities running in London, such as The Big Issue, Centrepoint, Crisis or Shelter, that provide support and empower homeless people to make a fresh start away from the street.

Betty Encinales

Global Seven News