The latest COVID variant is tearing through the UK population. Christmas plans are in the balance, again. Will we, should we gather with elderly relatives? Even the experts seem to be leaving this decision until the very last minute.

What is less uncertain is the plight of the homeless. While, ironically, COVID prevention measures caused a short-term reduction in homelessness, their removal is revealing the reality of a problem that has intensified in our country over the past decade.

Statistics for this phenomenon, described by the UN as a “violation of human dignity”, are truly alarming. The charity Crisis estimated that 200,000 people were experiencing core homelessness, its most severe and immediate form, in England during 2020.

As for rough sleeping, the latest official count indicated a total of 2,688 on one night in England last autumn. The Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN), however, has released annual figures (to March 2021) suggesting that 11,018 people were seen on London’s streets alone.

The scale of the problem is hard to quantify, with hidden homelessness (sofa surfing and the like) virtually impossible to capture. Crisis has submitted that 62% of single homeless people do not show up in official figures while housing charity Shelter believes that, in fact, one in 53 people living in London is without a home.

And consider this. The average age of death for people encountering homelessness is 45 for men and 43 for women. One in three dies of treatable conditions. Homeless people are over nine times more likely to take their own lives than the general population.

What’s the answer? Not moving vulnerable individuals into inappropriate, emergency accommodation that’s for sure. The destination of sustainable, independent living will only be reached along a progressive pathway that crucially includes a proper home and the support required to keep it long-term.

A bit like turkeys and baubles, concern for the homeless comes into season in December. But homelessness isn’t just for Christmas. In January, policies introduced to address Omicron, like closing or restricting the capacity of communal night shelters, are likely to be in full force.

We must all take notice and, ideally, get involved. This scandal belongs to everyone and, guess what, prevention is cheaper than the cost of homelessness.

Enjoy a safe and cheery celebration. Thanks for reading my blogs this year.