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As Crisis opens its Christmas centres to an expected 4,000 homeless guests, new research by the charity reveals how one in four homeless people in the UK will spend this Christmas alone, while more than six out of 10 will spend it with neither family nor friends. Drawing on a survey of more than 500 people in homeless day centres across the country, the report reveals the extent of loneliness and isolation amongst homeless people, the stigma they experience and the heavy toll it takes on their mental and physical health.
It shows how six out of 10 homeless people suffer from loneliness, making them some of the most isolated people in our society. One in three has no contact with family, while less than one in four can call on a friend in an emergency.
The report also looks at the impact of loneliness on people’s lives. It shows how homeless people often or sometimes feel ashamed or invisible to others (reported by 70 per cent), leading nearly half to feel like they don’t deserve to be helped.
Crucially, these experiences make it even harder for people to rebuild their lives: more than half said they found it harder to seek help, while seven out of 10 found it harder to secure or maintain a job.
In the worst cases, people had even considered or attempted suicide. As Crisis opens Christmas centres across London, Edinburgh, Coventry, Birmingham and Newcastle, the charity is calling for action to make sure nobody has to face homelessness in the first place.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “Christmas should be a time for family and friends, for warmth and celebration, yet for homeless people it can be one of the hardest periods of the year - a cold, lonely experience to be endured rather than enjoyed. That’s what makes our work at Christmas so important.
“Yet loneliness isn’t just a problem at Christmas. Homelessness is a desperate, isolating experience that destroys people’s confidence and self-esteem and makes it even harder for them to get help. We already know that homeless people are over nine times more likely to commit suicide, and there can be little doubt that loneliness plays a major part in that tragedy.
Sparks also re-issued a call for a change to the law allowing everyone who is homeless to get help from their council.
Crisis at Christmas opens on December 23. Pick up your January/February issue of the Pavement – our survival guide written by people with experience of homelessness – at one of their London centres.