Homelessness and rough sleeping on the rise in UK

LONDON: A homeless man in London was unable to access temporary housing as he did not have a valid photo identification.
Victor Novak, who became homeless after a relationship breakdown and the loss of a job as a cycle courier, has been homeless on the streets of London since the last 10 years. His attempts to get a valid photo ID have so far been unsuccessful.
“I went to get the passport and they said: ‘No Problem – just give us £89 and it’ll be ready in 10 days’, he said. “£89! I don’t have 89p for tea, coffee – how can I give £89?”
The problem faced by Victor is common for homeless people in the United Kingdom. Many of them are unable to access housing simply because of bureaucratic hurdles.
The Home Office spokesperson said: “If a person can’t afford the fees and wasn’t born before September 2, 1929, they won’t be able to apply for a passport, I’m afraid.”
Despite being the sixth wealthiest country in the world, the UK has severe homelessness and rough sleeping crisis which is worsening each year.
British government’s statistics show that there are at least 4,677 rough sleepers in England which is more than double the number of homeless people reported in 2010.
Latest homelessness figures show that there has been an increase of 11 per cent from last year, with 68,170 households described as either homeless or threatened with homelessness.
To counter this trend, the British government has set up a £63 million grant to help homeless households.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced an extra £3 million for the grant scheme which seeks to tackle homelessness in the winter. He has also reaffirmed his commitment to end the rough sleeping crisis by 2024. However, his critics continue to blame his government for the homelessness epidemic which is growing in the UK.
Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, and John Healey, Shadow Housing Secretary, have criticised the Conservatives for being “directly responsible” for people living and dying on the country’s streets and pledged a national “moral mission” to save lives this winter and end rough sleeping.
“One person sleeping rough is one too many”, Jeremy Corbyn had said during his election campaign. But his promise may not be fulfilled after a humiliating defeat in the elections.
Chancellor Sajid Javed who has also served as housing secretary hit back at Labour’s claims in an interview given to Sky News.
He said, “It was Labour that was responsible for the massive rise of homelessness.” He mentioned that homelessness had peaked in 2008 under the Labour government and had halved since then but according to The Guardian, the claim is misleading.
Official figures showed that in 2017/18, close to 56,600 households were accepted as being in priority need of housing.
That figure is below the peak of 135,000 recorded in 2003/04 under a Labour government, but an increase from the 40,000 in the year before the coalition government came into power.
It is difficult to ascertain homelessness and rough sleeping figures since the mechanism which calculates the number is based on how many households have been accepted by their councils as in need of accommodation.
Figures for rough sleeping are calculated by counting the number of rough sleepers on any given night which might not be the most accurate way to get the real numbers since many places can be missed.
These statistics also do not take into account the number of people living in overcrowded accommodations due to a lack of alternatives.
While politicians pin the blame for the homelessness and rough sleeping on each other, people like Victor who are the most vulnerable members of society continue to suffer.
After our involvement in Victor’s case, the Islington Council has invited him to apply for temporary housing even without a photo ID.

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