In Brief

Britain facing ‘worst winter homelessness crisis in 20 years’

Big Issue founder says radical action is needed to prevent situation from deteriorating

The founder of The Big Issue has warned that Britain is facing its worst winter homelessness crisis in more than 20 years, as he called for radical action to prevent the situation deteriorating further.

 John Bird, who was made a life peer for his work tackling homelessness, said the UK risked moving back to the “desperate” times of the early 1990s when he set up the magazine sold on the street by homeless people, unless “something radical was done about it”.

Speaking to The Guardian, he said it was not only the growing number of people on the street but also the rise of recreational drug use, cuts to local councils and less funding for homeless organisations that are “likely to make future winters even harder”.

While Bird admitted "he was not a statistician”, official figures appear to back him up.

According to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), homelessness has been on the rise since 2011. Data shows the number of people sleeping rough in England shot up by 134% between 2010 and 2016, while the number of households living in temporary accommodation went up by 60% over the same period.

Criticising the costs of austerity as “unsustainable”, Bird called for a greater focus on “transforming” social services and working on preventative measures.

As part of its Homelessness Reduction Act the Government has set aside £550m with the goal of halving rough sleeping by 2020 and eliminating it altogether by 2027.

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