Daily abuse and violence is suffered by homeless
Almost 80 per cent of people sleeping rough were attacked or suffered abuse or anti-social behaviour over the past year, a homelessness charity said.
As Crisis opens its centres to thousands of homeless people across the country this Christmas, the charity said two thirds of people felt that living on the streets was getting ever harder.
In Wigan, there are a number of projects holding events to help the homeless this Christmas. Three churches have joined together to host a free lunch for the homeless or lonely on Christmas Eve.
The feast will be held at St John’s in Pemberton with help from St Philip’s in Goose Green and St James’s in Poolstock.
A Christmas Day soup kitchen offering free food and drink will also be open at Hallgate House on Frank Street, Wigan, from 9am until 11am.
The Homeless Support Project (HSP) in Leigh will be providing an afternoon meal for homeless people on Christmas Day thanks to donations from local businesses and supermarkets.
The kitchen opened earlier this year and provides food for rough sleepers and people who are sofa surfing or living in hostels every week night from its premises on Railway Road.
Penningtons Tea Room at Pennington Hall Park in Leigh is also holding a free Christmas Day lunch for people who might be alone or homeless.
The lunch has again been made possible by donations from businesses and the community.
Around one in three rough sleepers questioned in England and Wales said they had been deliberately hit, kicked or been subjected to violence, while a similar number said they had things thrown at them.
Almost half reported being intimidated or threatened with violence, six in 10 claimed to have been verbally abused or harassed and 10% said people had even urinated on them.
Shockingly, seven per cent said they had been the victim of a sexual assault while homeless. Others reported having things stolen from them or their belongings being deliberately damaged or vandalised, but more than half did not report crimes to the police as they did not think anything would be done.
The report, drawn from a survey of 458 rough sleepers, comes as Crisis is calling on members of the public to urge their MPs to back the Homelessness Reduction Bill, currently going through Parliament.
On Wednesday Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to put “prevention at the heart of tackling homelessness” as she has unveiled £20m of funding to stop people becoming rough sleepers on the streets of London.
Mrs May also announced £10 million backing for projects aimed at helping those at “imminent risk” of becoming homeless, the money coming from a national £50 million fund announced in October.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “For anyone sleeping on the street, life can be a struggle just to survive.
“Rough sleepers are far more likely to be victims of crime, including violent assault, abuse and intimidation, compared to the general public. This is a horrifying state of affairs and shows why we need to prevent people ending up in this situation in the first place.
“Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for homeless people.
While others are enjoying the comfort of family and friends, homeless people face a daily struggle just to stay safe and escape the cold.
“Yet we also need to make sure people can get help all year round, ideally before they become homeless in the first place.
“The Homelessness Reduction Bill currently making its way through parliament aims to make sure people facing homelessness can get support when they need it, and we urge the public to help by calling on their MP to back this crucial bill.”
Crisis expects to take in around 4,000 homeless people to its centres around the country this Christmas, offering companionship and hot meals.