The latest figures for those sleeping rough on our streets show that yet again there has been a rise. Government statistics show that more than 4,000 people are sleeping out on our streets on any one night, a 16 per cent increase on the previous year.
There is a clear correlation between the rise in those sleeping out on our streets and the deficit reduction programme introduced by the Coalition government in 2010. Homeless Link, the national membership body for those working to end homelessness, estimates that there has been a 134 per cent increase in rough sleeping since 2010.
At The Passage’s resource centre, which provides diverse services to meet the needs of those either on the streets or at risk of ending up homeless, we often feel like an Accident & Emergency department, dealing first hand with the human face of the impact of cuts to services. We too have seen a change. We are seeing more and more people who, due to prolonged cuts in social-care funding, previously would have been picked up by prevention services that would have stopped them ending up in crisis and on the streets.
While these figures are a national scandal, it is important that we also get behind the statistics to see the human stories behind these numbers. The sight of someone sleeping out on the streets is one of the clearest symptoms we have that something has gone terribly wrong in that person’s life. Somehow in the winter this sight evokes even greater poignancy.
While we may not have personally suffered physical homelessness, we have all suffered inner homelessness: depression, bereavement or simply feeling at a loss. At those times we know that it is the love, care and support of those closest to us that stops us falling further. The writer Rhidian Brook captures it perfectly: “In the end the thing that catches someone’s fall from grace – is someone else’s grace.”
The Passage is blessed with superb staff, supporters and volunteers, whether it is people giving their money (often when they have very little of it), donating their time or remembering our work in their prayers – in many cases all three.
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