As the government announces the number of homeless deaths in England and Wales has risen by 22 per cent this year, ITV News National Editor Allegra Stratton has been to Brighton to speak to those with first-hand experience of sleeping rough.
Just weeks ago, Brighton was a playground for people seeking sun but last night on the beach the season had definitely changed. Rain lashed the tents pitched by the homeless and it wouldn’t have been easy trying to sleep next to the roar of a stormy sea.
We found 25-year-old Ben in a tent with two friends. His clothes were wet through and he didn’t appear to have another set. Articulate and thoughtful it was hard to see why he couldn’t hold down paid employment and house himself but he seemed to have given up on creature comforts. “It’s not nice living out here. I don’t wish to live like this”.
“I’ve lost ten in the last two years in Brighton. Ten people. Very close to me. It kills you.
"One died of something to do with his heart. He was a drinker so he liked a drink, and he collapsed. I caught him before he hit the floor. I called the ambulance and he died on the scene.”
The friend Ben was sharing a tent with was distressed by the rain, and our interviewing of his friend. He had just taken some street drugs and, according to Ben, in need of medication, but Ben had to settle him.
In the absence of any apparent help from the authorities, the two young men are each other’s protection and support.
- Trace explains how he became homeless
Along the beach, Jim Devlin operates two buses joined together by a gazebo where he fits as many as 20 into bunk beds on its upper and lower floors. It’s a cosy and warm set up and last night they ate sausages and mash - heaped with huge amounts of butter to give them extra calories to deal with the cold - while watching a documentary about Australian mining. But their accounts were still bleak.
Here we met a trained chef in pristine jeans and sparkling white trainers newly homeless after losing his job at a nearby chain restaurant. He has now got new work at another restaurant but needs to build up cash to get a new flat. We also met a father of a four-year-old who became homeless earlier this year when his marriage broke down and his partner kicked him out of the family home.
After sleeping in a tent for a few days, it was stolen and he turned to these buses. When we talked to him he was quietly colouring in with felt tips in the corner of the bus – something he said kept his anxiety in check.
Even though it was driving rain, Trace was in flip flops with bandages on his feet. He told us that even though he had only been on the street for four weeks, he could already see the effect on his health. His cough had got much worse, and his feet were in a bad way. And he said he was worried because friends he knew that had lost their lives by living on the streets, often started off with infected feet.
- Statistics gathered by the ONS mainly include people sleeping rough or using emergency accommodation such as homeless shelters and direct access hostels, at or around the time of death. New figures relate to deaths registered in 2018.