This Christmas, once again, the charity Crisis will be giving homeless people a warm place to stay. As always they will serve people three warm meals a day, offer them a haircut and a chiropodist appointment and give them new clothes and blankets. Most importantly Crisis will provide these vulnerable people with advice on housing, benefits and job seeking and give them the opportunity to meet with addiction councillors. The aim is to use those few days at Christmas time to help set ‘guests’ up for the future.
The work that Crisis does is vital. Rough sleepers have an average life expectancy of just 42. They are thirty five times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. 3975 people slept rough at some point inLondonduring 2010/11, an increase of 8 per cent on the previous year’s total of 3673 and of more than a thousand since 2005/06. The situation is set to get even worse.
In recent months there has been what Crisis are calling a ‘double hit’ that will lead to more homelessness. Firstly there have been substantial cuts to housing benefit for 25-35 year olds. These cuts, which mean single people between 25-35 cannot claim housing benefit for a place of their own, could force as many as 12,000 young Londoners out of their home.
The second hit took place only a few weeks ago when the government pushed through legislation to criminalise squatting. This while 700,000 homes are empty and 40% of homeless people have squatted at some point. This change, as Max reported earlier, is ‘both unjust and socially damaging’.
This Christmas Crisis will give homeless people somewhere warm to stay and some hope for the future. Next yeae the fight against the government’s disastrous housing policies goes on. If you can afford to pay for someone to stay at one of the shelters this year please donate here, it’s certainly a worthy cause.