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Homelessness: ‘People think it can never happen to them, but it can, in the blink of an eye’

On any given night in England, there are an estimated 4,134 people sleeping rough. As the colder months approach, Big Issue founder John Bird has raised concerns this could be “the worst winter for over two decades” for homelessness.

The figures are stark: between 2010 and 2016, the number of people sleeping rough in England rose by 134%. Tens of thousands are off the streets but still homeless, in hostels and temporary shelters, in tents, cars or sofa-surfing. Crisis estimates that in 2016 there were 143,000 people in these categories, including rough sleepers.

Many have linked this year’s rise to Conservative austerity: Bird cites a combination of local council service cuts, paltry funding of homeless charities and inadequate care for those with mental health problems. We spoke to five people who were made homeless in 2017, to hear their stories.

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