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23.12.16

Councils condemn violence and abuse against rough sleepers

Rough sleepers are almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence and 15 times more likely to have suffered verbal abuse than members of the general public, new research has revealed.

Homelessness charity Crisis’s survey of 458 recent or current rough sleepers in England and Wales revealed that almost 8 out of 10 (77%) have suffered some sort of crime or anti-social behaviour in the last year, often by a member of the public.

The charity and local authorities have urged the government for greater measures to prevent people from facing the trauma of homelessness, such as stronger financial backing and the Homelessness Reduction Bill currently going through Parliament, which would help prevent people from losing their homes.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “For anyone sleeping on the street, life can be a struggle just to survive. As our research shows, rough sleepers are far more likely to be victims of crime, including violent assault, abuse and intimidation, compared to the general public.

“This is a horrifying state of affairs and shows why we need to prevent people ending up in this situation in the first place.”

The report revealed that of current or recent rough sleepers, 59% have been harassed or verbally abused and 48% have been intimidated or threatened with violence, with 35% actually suffering some form of violence.

Terrifyingly, 9% of respondents reported having been urinated on while homeless while 7% said that they had been the victim of a sexual assault.

In response to the report, the LGA condemned the violence against rough sleepers. However, it added that councils are struggling to tackle the country’s growing homelessness crisis when faced with rising demand, falling social housing and wide-ranging welfare reforms such as the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC).

Last month Great Yarmouth Borough Council, one of the pilot councils for the UC roll-out, asked for the immediate suspension of the housing element of the scheme after delays in processing claims led some private landlords to evict their tenants. 

“Councils are doing everything they can to prevent and solve homelessness, working closely with partners to place people into secure, appropriate accommodation and equip them with the skills to find work or ensure their health and wellbeing,” an LGA spokesperson said.

“The government needs to give councils the powers and funding to resume their historic role as a major builder of affordable homes and to address the widening gap between incomes and rents. This is vital to end homelessness.”

Councils are making a firm drive to tackle homelessness this Christmas. The Greater Manchester Combined Authority was recently successful in its bids for government trailblazer funding and social impact bonds to help it take an integrated stance against homelessness, while London mayor Sadiq Khan announced a £50m fund earlier this week to help homeless people move on from refuges and hostels.

(Image c. Trowbridge Estate)

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