Every December I write a blog about homelessness. I am relieved that this national scourge comes into high relief at Christmas but equally depressed that it falls from view in the New Year. The government is tackling the problem with £2 billion over three years, pledging to end rough sleeping by 2024, but London presents a chilly and chilling reminder that there is still much work to do.

In truth, it is easy to despair about homelessness.

Let’s start with the facts. The ‘Everyone In’ campaign during the pandemic temporarily masked the scale of homelessness but now the stats are heading in the wrong direction again. The latest official figures for England, for example, show that 74,230 households became homeless or were at imminent risk of becoming homeless between January and March 2022, including 25,610 families with children. That’s a 5% rise on the same period last year.

Since then, of course, the cost-of-living crisis has added another hazard in the battle for struggling families to keep a roof over their heads.

Consider this specifically. These government data also reveal that, despite being in full-time work, 10,560 households were homeless or threatened with homelessness. Yes, that’s people with jobs.

This shaming situation is a personal fixation. I am a trustee of a charity that accommodates nearly 400 vulnerable young people at three locations in north London. Our residents arrive by various routes. While easy to define, ‘not having a home’, homelessness has many triggers – including eviction, domestic abuse, substance misuse, being a refugee, leaving care or prison, relationship breakdown, loss of employment, mental or physical health issues.

Providing a safe, stable place to live is clearly not a solution to all the challenges listed but it’s a pretty good start and arguably a fundamental deliverable for a civilised society.

Ipsos Mori research from 2021 indicates that almost two thirds of the British public support investing money to prevent homelessness rather than paying to deal with the crises. And work by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP confirms that this investment would save money in the long run.

It’s down to our political leaders, therefore, to prioritise emergency accommodation for those in short-term need, to address the woeful shortage of permanent social housing, to ensure that available benefits truly cover the cost of housing.

But what can we contribute as individuals? Give cash, clothes, food to people on the streets? Does it help or merely feed a cycle of exploitation? Whom can we trust?

I don’t have the answer, but I have a three-point plan – macro, micro and human.

In January, still as cold but with the seasonal focus shifted to diets and resolutions, I will:

  • Write to my MP and open a dialogue about her stance and plans on homelessness (macro)
  • Increase and regularise the contribution to my chosen charity. Nothing flash, more like the £9.99/month that goes to Spotify (micro)
  • Say hello at the very least when I encounter a homeless person. The Big Issue website makes an important point: ‘A warm greeting, some simple small talk or even just asking a personal question can make all the difference’ (human)

Homelessness belongs to all of us. Together, we can end it.

Festive greetings from me and thanks for reading my blogs this year.