For many, Christmas is a time of getting together with friends and family and eating one too many mince pies. But the tinsel and bright lights often mask a time that can be especially hard for those who have no one to spend the festive period with or nowhere to call home.
“Christmas should be a time for family and friends, for warmth and celebration, yet for homeless people it can be one of the hardest periods of the year - a cold, lonely experience to be endured rather than enjoyed.”
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis
There is no national figure for homelessness, in part due to the fact that many homeless people do not show up on official census statistics. The homeless are often invisible, ignored and forgotten. At its very worst, homelessness can mean that individuals are forced to sleep rough, but it also includes anyone who has no permanent dwelling. This includes those in shelters, emergency accommodation and those perpetually moving from sofa to sofa. As such, the problem of homelessness is much bigger than just those who end up sleeping on the streets.
Local authorities have a duty to house some homeless people who meet a strict set of criteria. In total 275,000 households approached their local authority in the last year alone for homelessness assistance.7 Of these, 57,750 met the strict criteria and were accepted as homeless in 2015/2016; this was an increase of 6% on 2014/2015.8
The majority of single people who approach their local authority will not be eligible for housing. People who do not qualify for local authority housing assistance and may be staying in a hostel, with friends or family, or some other form of insecure accommodation, are known as the hidden homeless.
Healthcare and the homeless
Being homeless is physically and mentally exhausting and has a significant impact on health and wellbeing. The average age of death of a homeless person is 47 and just 43 for women, compared to 77 for the general population.2
The healthcare challenges of being homeless are very different from those of most people. Homeless people are over 9 times more likely to commit suicide, 3 times more likely to die as a result of traffic accidents, twice as likely to succumb to infections, and over 3 times as likely to suffer a fall.2
Crisis is the national charity for homeless people. They are dedicated to ending homelessness by delivering life-changing services and campaigning for change. At Christmas, Crisis offer the homeless healthcare they may not otherwise be able to access, including health and dental check-ups, eye tests, physiotherapy assessments and podiatry treatments.
For more information about Crisis please visit www.crisis.org.uk
Helping the homeless
Most of us have walked past someone sleeping rough or begging on the street, and wanted to help but didn’t know the best or most effective way. Chloe and Yvonne in the accounts team at Solaris Health have been fundraising and volunteering to help make a difference.
Chloe spent the night sleeping rough at Southwark Cathedral on 25th November in support of the Robes project, a homeless charity that run shelters and offer support and advice across South London.
Chloe fundraised in the office before the sleep out by tempting us all with her baking. She raised £63.00 for the project helping contribute to a total of £92,500 from everyone who took part. Well done Chloe!
For more information on the Robes project please visit www.robes.org.uk
Yvonne has been volunteering at the Westminster Churches Winter Shelter. This is a coordinated response by churches in Westminster to support the street homeless during the winter. The shelter has space for 15 rough-sleepers, where they receive a hot meal and a safe bed for the night.
Yvonne spent an evening prepping and serving hot meals to the shelter’s guests, helping to support them through this festive time. Well done Yvonne!
1. Heriot Watt University and the University of York (2012). The Homelessness Monitor, Crisis and JRF.
2. Homelessness: A silent killer. A research briefing on mortality amongst homeless people. Crisis. December 2011 http://www.crisis.org.uk/data/files/publications/Homelessness%20-%20a%20silent%20killer.pdf (accessed December 2016).
3. Rough Sleeping Statistics, Autumn 2015, England. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/503015/Rough_Sleeping_Autumn_2015_statistical_release.pdf (accessed December 2016).
4. NPC (2008). Lost Property.
5. Living in Fear: Violence and Victimisation in the Lives of Single Homeless People. Crisis. December 2004. http://www.crisis.org.uk/data/files/document_library/research/livinginfear_prelim.pdf (accessed December 2016).
6. Homeless link. Hidden homelessness. http://www.homeless.org.uk/facts/homelessness-in-numbers/hidden-homelessness (accessed December 2016).
7. Heriot Watt University and the University of York (2016). The Homelessness Monitor, Crisis and JRF.
8. Statutory Homelessness and Prevention and Relief. Department for Communities and Local Government, Live Tables (2016). https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/533113/Statutory_Homelessness_and_Prevention_and_Relief _Live_Tables_2016_Q1.xls (accessed December 2016).