Over the Christmas period the issue of homelessness hit the news, with examples such as Euston train station being opened up to serve Christmas dinner to 200 homeless people.
But with housing charity Shelter estimating that 307,000 people are homeless, it is not just an issue at Christmas. London remains the city with the highest rate of homelessness. But while London’s figures have remained relatively stable, other cities have seen large year on year increases in homelessness. In Manchester, one in 154 people are homeless (compared with one in 266 in 2016); in Birmingham one in 88 (119 in 2016); in Bristol one in 170 (199 in 2016).
Another housing charity, Crisis, estimates that the number of people living in tents across the UK has risen by 56% to 9,100 between 2011 and 2016. They predict the number will rise to 11,000 in the next three years.
The daily harassment faced by street homeless people was highlighted in early January, when the leader of Windsor and Maidenhead council wrote to Police to demand they use legal powers from the Vagrancy Act 1824 to move homeless people ahead of the royal wedding. In the letter and a series of tweets the council leader accused the homessless of Windsor of “not really being homeless” and “exploiting local people”.
Manchester council has been condemned for repeatedly “evicting” so-called “tent cities” and confiscating tents, and other councils have been criticised for confiscating a variety of possessions or giving homeless people orders to move from the area.
The homeless continue to be criminalised. 1,500 people were prosecuted under the Vagrancy Act in 2016.