More than one in four homeless people in the UK will spend this Christmas alone, according to a new report by the homeless charity Crisis.
The report draws on a survey of more than 500 people in homeless centres across the UK, revealing the worrying extent of loneliness and isolation amongst homeless people and how stigma and negative stereotypes impact on their lives.
Crisis expects to open its doors to around 4,000 homeless people over the festive season, with more than six in ten homeless people in the UK spending Christmas with neither family nor friends.
The report highlights how one in three homeless people have no contact with family, while fewer than one in four will call on a friend for help in an emergency.
A shocking 70% of respondents to the survey feel ashamed of their situation or invisible to others, leading to half on these feeling as if they don’t deserve help.
Two-thirds reported being treated differently since becoming homeless, and seven in ten said they feel as if society hold them responsible for their homelessness.
Crisis says these experiences can make it more difficult for homeless people to rebuild their lives and find work. Seven out of ten struggle to find or hold on to a job and some were finding life so unbearable they had even considered or attempted suicide.
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “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. That’s what makes our work at Christmas so important.
“Yet loneliness isn’t just a problem at Christmas. Homelessness is a desperate, isolating experience that destroys people’s confidence and self-esteem and makes it even harder for them to get help.
“We already know that homeless people are over nine times more likely to commit suicide, and there can be little doubt that loneliness plays a major part in that tragedy.
“That’s why we also run year-round services to help homeless people rebuild their confidence and self-esteem. Yet it would be far better if nobody ever had to be homeless in the first place.
“Sadly, homeless people who go to their councils for help are often turned away with little or nothing at all. That’s why we urgently need a change in the law so that everyone can get the help they need, and we urge the public to back our campaign.”
The charity’s Christmas centres are run by more than 10,000 volunteers. Guests are offered warmth, companionship and three hot meals a day, as well as receiving healthcare and specialist advice on housing, work and information on how to access the benefits system.
Jon Sparkes said: “Every year, Crisis opens its doors to thousands of homeless people, offering warmth, shelter, food and companionship, as well as access to vital services.
“None of this would be possible without the generosity and compassion of thousands of individuals, organisations and companies, who give their time, funds and goods to make Christmas happen for some of society’s most vulnerable people.”
Crisis’s ‘No One turned Away‘ campaign calls for a change in the law so that all homeless people can get the desperate help they need from councils.
Meanwhile, Labour has slammed the Government over what they describe as “soaring levels of homeless” in England.
According to Labour, the number of homeless households has increased by a more than a third since 2010, with thousands of children in England spending Christmas in temporary accommodation.
Labour analysis of Government figures predicts that without urgent intervention the number of homeless households will rise to 75,000 by 2020, up from 40,020 in the final year of the last Labour Government and 54,430 in 2014/15.
The number of rough sleepers is also on the rise, up from 1,768 in 2010 to 2,744 last year.
More than 100,000 children will be living in temporary accommodation, including hostels and B&Bs, by the end of this parliament – up from 80,603 in 2009/10 and 90,335 in 2014/15.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said there have been “five years of failure on homelessness under this Government”, adding that welfare cuts were making it “far harder for people facing homelessness to get back on their feet”.
He added: “We must all fight for a society that is more decent, secure, and fair, and where no one facing homelessness is cast aside.”
A Government spokesperson said: “The reality is, statutory homelessness is now less than half the 2003/04 peak.
“This Government takes homelessness extremely seriously and since 2010, we have made £1 billion available to prevent and tackle the issue.
“This investment has prevented nearly a million households becoming homeless.”