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Homelessness in Britain at record high after rough sleepers double in five years, charity warns

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Homelessness in Britain has reached a record high after the number of rough sleepers doubled in five years, a charity has warned.

Research commissioned by Crisis found 170,000 families and individuals were facing the worst forms of homelessness, including sleeping on streets, sofa-surfing with strangers and living in hostels.

Some 12,300 cases were sleeping rough in 2017 – a 98% increase on 2012 – while nearly 12,000 were staying in vehicles or tents, the study found.

In Manchester, 47-year-old rough sleeper Joe told Sky News he was unable to find emergency accommodation because there were not enough places.

Joe has been sleeping rough for three years
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Joe has been sleeping rough for three years

Describing his experience of living on the street, he said: “People set you alight, p*** on you, kick you.

“You need to sleep with one eye open, you know what I mean.”

An estimated 500 people sleep rough on the streets of Greater Manchester.

Last year emergency shelters only opened after temperatures dropped below zero.

But this year, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has pledged to provide shelter for people sleeping rough every night of the winter.

Andy Burnham has pledged to provide shelter for rough sleepers in Manchester every night this winter
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Mr Burnham wants to end rough sleeping in Greater Manchester by 2020

One of the region’s new shelters in north Manchester is a former children’s home with twin rooms instead of dormitories.

One resident, who asked not to be named, said he had been homeless for two years after his wife died.

“I just lost my head,” he told Sky News. “I just couldn’t cope…it’s been hell.

“Once you become homeless you just get stuck in that rut. There’s no coming back from it, you know what I mean.

In the North West, 11% more people are without a home than a year ago
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There were 12,300 cases of rough sleepers in 2017, says Crisis

“You just become invisible.”

The government wants to end rough sleeping by 2027, while Mr Burnham says he is seeking to go further and reach the target in Greater Manchester by 2020.

He told Sky News: “In politics you hesitate before you go out there with a big commitment but to be honest, it’s urgent.

“It’s a humanitarian crisis right here before our eyes. If you can’t make a big commitment what’s going to change?”

The mayor’s pledge means more shelters will be open in Greater Manchester through the winter until 31 March.

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