Shocking figures showing that more than 24,000 people will face homelessness this Christmas have been released, with 12,300 of those people stuck on the streets.
As well as those sleeping rough this winter, 12,000 are seeking refuge in cars, trains, buses and tents, well exceeding numbers recorded five years ago.
Homelessness charity Crisis commissioned the research by Heriot-Watt University and said that the number of people sleeping without a roof over their heads in England is more than double what government statistics suggest.
Between 2012 and 2017, those figures soared by 120 per cent in England and 63 per cent in Wales, while numbers fell by six per cent in Scotland.
Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes said: “Christmas should be a time of joy but for thousands of people sleeping rough, in tents or on public transport, it will be anything but.
“While most of the country will be celebrating and enjoying a family meal, those who are homeless will face a struggle just to stay safe and escape the cold.”
While rough sleepers face the dangers of plummeting temperatures over the Christmas period, they are also constantly at risk of abuse, with homeless people nearly 17 times more likely to be victims of violence and 15 times more likely to be verbally abused compared to other members of the public.
Crisis is urging Westminster and the devolved governments to tackle the root causes of rough sleeping by strengthening the welfare system and making mainstream housing available to every homeless person as quickly as possible.
The charity reported that government figures are inaccurate because they are based solely on local authority headcounts and one-off physical head counts.
Heriot-Watt completed the picture by collating the government figures with academic studies, statutory statistics and data from support services.
Sparkes added: “This situation simply cannot continue. We know homelessness can be ended. Earlier this year we set out the exact government policies that would end homelessness across Britain. Our research shows that, with these policies in place, homelessness could be ended in just ten years.
“In the meantime, we’re asking members of the public who want to help to support our work this Christmas and year-round – so we can be there for everyone who needs us and give people in the most vulnerable circumstances support to leave homelessness behind for good.”
Crisis is asking the public to donate £28.18 to reserve a place for a homeless person at one of its centres this Christmas. Crisis’ Christmas centres – run by Crisis staff and 11,000 volunteers – run December 22-29 across London, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Birmingham and Coventry.