Charity warns of ‘tragedy’ of loneliness among the homeless

Thousands of homeless people face spending this Christmas alone, a charity has warned,

A quarter of homeless people will be alone at Christmas, say Crisis. Photo: Ian West/PA Wire

Crisis said a quarter of homeless people will be alone on Christmas Day.

Four thousand homeless people are expected to visit the Crisis at Christmas centres which open today and run until the end of the month, providing shelter, food and company for those who find themselves without a home.

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With a focus at Christmas on being with loved ones, this time of year can be especially isolating for the homeless, the charity said.

The Yorkshire Post has been campaigning to raise awareness of the issue of loneliness, and how it affects all sectors of society, since February 2014.

Almost three-quarters of those questioned by Crisis said they felt ashamed of being homeless, while 44 per cent said they felt undeserving of help.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “Christmas should be a time for family and friends, for warmth and celebration, yet for homeless people it can be one of the hardest periods of the year - a cold, lonely experience to be endured rather than enjoyed.”

But while loneliness can become more acute at Christmas, the tragedy of being homeless is one that can affect people at any time, he added.

“Homelessness is a desperate, isolating experience that destroys people’s confidence and self-esteem and makes it even harder for them to get help,” he said.

“We already know that homeless people are over nine times more likely to commit suicide, and there can be little doubt that loneliness plays a major part in that tragedy.”

Carlos Blanco spent six months on the streets after he was evicted just two weeks before Christmas last year. The 44-year-old had been working as a swimming teacher but did not have regular hours and ended up struggling to pay his rent. He was directed to Crisis to spend the Christmas period at one of their centres.

“Any day is an awful day to be homeless, not just Christmas,” he said. “The services Crisis offers to people - the courses, advice and support - are really important and they go on every day.”