John Bird warns of worst winter for homelessness since mid-1990s

Big Issue founder calls for 'radical action' to stop the number of rough sleepers on the streets from growing

After a long period of improvement, rough sleeping has been back on the rise for several years now.

Lord John Bird, The Big Issue’s founder, thinks the growing crisis in street homelessness could reach levels not seen since the mid-nineties.

“It could be the worst winter for over two decades,” he said, citing the fact people’s incomes and funding for various forms of support “are going down and not up.”

John Bird, founder of The Big Issue

“It is likely to make future winters harder, and next year threatens to be even worse,” Bird added.

“I am also talking about the number of really distressed people on the street. I have noticed an increase in young, very distressed women. It’s unbelievable, and there was not as much of that in the early 1990s.”

The cost of austerity is unsustainable

According to the Department for Communities and Local Government’s own count, the number of rough sleepers in England rose 16% last year. The total marked a 134% rise since 2010.

“The cost of austerity is unsustainable,” said Bird in an interview with The Guardian, pointing to the government’s welfare changes and even more “brutal” impact of cuts to council budgets in the spiraling number of people falling through the safety net.

The Big Issue founder has also talked and written about the pressing need to invest in poverty prevention measures.

Rather than continuing to struggle to put sticking plasters over the country’s growing social problems, The Big Issue has championed stronger intervention to prevent poverty from reoccurring.

“We have to do something radical about it,” Bird said. “We have got to stop the situation getting worse. If we can change our thinking about poverty, we can sort it out.”

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