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Homelessness crisis: Thousands left living in cars and tents across UK, figures reveal

The Independent logo The Independent 23/12/2018 Eleanor Busby
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Thousands have been left living in cars and tents as homelessness reaches a record high in the UK, a study has found.

More than 170,000 individuals and families are experiencing destitution as the numbers of rough sleepers has doubled in five years, according to research for charity Crisis.

The majority are sofa-surfing or living in hostels, but 12,300 are sleeping rough on the streets and nearly 12,000 are sleeping in vehicles or tents, the study, carried out by Heriot-Watt University, reveals.

The scale of homelessness was 13 per cent higher in 2017 compared to 2012, with an increase seen every year in between, according to the report.

It estimates that 170,800 households are experiencing the most extreme forms of homelessness, compared to 151,600 in 2012.

The number of homeless people under 25 has reached 38,000 while 4,200 are over 65, figures show.

It comes after official statistics released this week found that nearly 600 homeless people died in England and Wales last year, a rise of almost a quarter (24 per cent) over five years.

On average they were dying at the age of 44 - a life expectancy nearly half that for people in stable housing - because of high rates of suicide, drug poisonings and alcohol-related issue.

Crisis is calling on the government to tackle the underlying causes of homelessness, which it attributes to a shortage of social housing and welfare payments failing to cover private rents.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “Christmas can be an incredibly difficult time for people who are homeless.

"While others are celebrating with family and friends, homeless people face a daily struggle just to stay safe and warm.

”While rough sleeping is the most visible form of homelessness, for every person on our streets there are another 12 families or individuals experiencing other terrible situations like sofa-surfing and living in cramped B&Bs."

It came after George Osbornedenied that “a lack of money” as a result of the programme of austerity he spearheaded was the cause of Britain’s homelessness crisis.

The former Conservative chancellor dismissed growing warnings that the severe spending cuts he introduced were behind the explosion in rough sleeping.

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