18 Dec 2017

Out In The Cold: Homeless at Christmas

Hundreds of thousands of people in Britain face Christmas on the streets or in temporary accommodation.

In our new series, Out In The Cold, Channel 4 News explores what life is like for those without a home.

Three weeks ago a woman was found dead in a park in the heart of Cardiff. She had been sleeping rough in a tent.

We tell the story of the woman in the tent with the help of those who loved her.

This is 21st century Britain. But still there are people without homes, still people living rough on the streets, including some who are in work, even some doing vital jobs in the public sector, low paid and increasingly struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

Central government doesn’t keep statistics on the ‘working homeless’. But we do know that overall the number of homeless people is once again on the rise.

128,000 children in the UK are living in temporary accommodation and without a permanent home, according to the housing charity Shelter.

Struggling to settle in unfamiliar surroundings, some families have been recording video diaries about how they are forced to live.

 

As Britain freezes, so too do the thousands sleeping rough in towns and cities across the country.

Whilst most of us worry about staying warm, for those on the streets the priority is staying alive in sub-zero temperatures. And the problem is getting worse.

More than 4,000 people sleep rough every night in England – a figure which has more than doubled since 2010.

 

Britain’s second city, Birmingham, is facing a twin crisis: high levels of homelessness and drug use.

The city’s mayor aims to get people back into housing before tackling their drug problem, while outreach workers are trying to create safe areas where users can inject, which have already proved a huge success in Europe.

The urgent demand for more homes has been underlined by the latest government figures. The number of homeless households went up six per cent between June and September this year.

The task facing councils over the last three years has been the equivalent of finding temporary accommodation for a secondary school’s worth of homeless children every month, a local government association spokesman has said.

MPs have branded homelessness “a national crisis”, condemning the government for its “unacceptably complacent” response.

A damning report by the cross-party public accounts committee says the number of people sleeping rough has soared 134% since 2011, describing the government’s efforts to eliminate rough sleeping as the ‘”tip of the iceberg”.

Ministers insist they’re providing more than a billion pounds to reduce all forms of homelessness by 2020. In the latest in our week-long series on the issue, we have been talking to homeless people in Liverpool and Manchester to see what support is being offered to people with nowhere else to go.

Living on the street can be a cold and chaotic life, but most of all a lonely one. Without a support network of family and friends, many choose to own a dog – for security and for companionship. Now a group of vets have started a registered practice to give treatment to street dogs and offer their owners vital, regular contact.

We went out with the Street Vets, spending time with these unconventional dog owners and seeing the profound bond they have with their pets.