London experiencing highest rate of homlessness in United Kingdom

World Today

Shoppers walk past a homeless person begging on Oxford Street in central London on December 22, 2018 on the last Saturday before Christmas. (Photo by NIKLAS HALLE’N / AFP)

The number of homeless in Britain is on the rise. London is among the most affected locations, with an estimated 170,000 homeless people. One charity says exact figures are hard to calculate, and warns the real number could be far higher.

CGTN’S Natalie Powell reports from London.

Follow Natalie Powell on Twitter @NatalieDPowell

London has the highest rate of homelessness in the United Kingdom. It is estimated that one in every 53 people are sleeping on the streets or living in temporary housing.

“Homelessness increases daily, there’s no denying that,” said Michelle Clark, the Director of Dogs on the Streets. “Every day you see new faces, you see the figure rising.”

Clark’s charity supports pets belonging to the homeless community by providingvveterinary care and services.

She says many of these pets are therapy dogs and provide companionship for those on the streets, but that can make it difficult when it comes to accommodation.

“There’s not enough social housing, and the reason they tend to be on the streets more with dogs is because of the barrier in accepting dogs into housing,” Clark said. “The homeless people on the street with dogs tend to come out of relationship or marriage break ups, family breaks downs they’ve got nowhere else to go.”

Gary has spent many years either living on the street or in hostels. He makes money by selling the Big Issue, a magazine about homelessness. His companion is Lola.

“I’ve just been given an eviction notice through no fault of my own,” he said. “If I have to go back on the street then I have to go back on the street, I don’t really want to, I’m getting old now. I’m nearly 60, so I don’t really want to go back but if it meant that they said I couldn’t have my dog with me then I’d go back on the street.”

Research has found three key reasons why people lose their homes – the first is being priced out of the private rental sector, the second is eviction and the third, relationship breakdowns.

The British government is pledging to end homelessness by 2027, and has set aside $125 million for the initiative.

It has also announced plans to set up emergency centers and provide support for those suffering from mental health problems and substance abuse. But homeless charities like St. Mungo’s are concerned that these may only be short term fixes.

“The challenge will be and the challenge remains about the long term commitment and whether that investment will continue and that commitment will continue,” said Petra Salva, the Director of St. Mungo’s. “That really is the question.”

While government commitments to end homelessness are welcomed, the future for people like Gary and his dog Lola remains uncertain especially during the winter months, when temperatures are dropping.