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Ian Richards, homelessness worker for Crisis
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a homelessness charity worker

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…according to Ian Richards, 58, from Crisis

The number of people sleeping on the street is only going up

‘Local agencies reported that 8,096 people slept rough in London in 2015 to 2016, which is more than double the figure from 2009-10. Personally, I can’t see a time when homelessness won’t be an issue.’

The biggest cause of homelessness today is high rents

‘It used to be loss of jobs and relationship breakdowns, but now it’s renting. The costs are crippling people financially. Those who can’t afford it are out on the street – simple as that. We’ve just had the Homelessness Reduction Bill passed in Parliament, which should tackle some of the issues. It’s a step forward.’

Guests at Crisis drink a lot of Irn Bru

‘Virtually everything we get is donated, from our vehicle fleets to food and drink. Every year we go through 7,200 mince pies, 2,500 loaves, 3,000 naan breads and 16,800 bottles of Irn Bru. It’s blatantly obvious our resources manager is Scottish.’

There’s a tragic reason why you don’t see many elderly people sleeping rough

‘The average age of death for a homeless person is just 47. That’s more than 30 years younger than the national average, so they don’t have long.’

The majority of homeless people here are homegrown

‘A lot of the general public think homeless people are foreigners sponging off us. That gets my goat because it’s not the case. Every year there’s a service at St Martin-in-the-Fields for people who have passed away on the street, and 90 percent of the names read out are British. And even if they’re not, they deserve somewhere to live too.’

Volunteer or donate to Crisis this Christmas at www.crisis.org.uk.

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