Banker sleeping rough in park
The BBC Panorama programme spoke to a former banker, who was now sleeping rough in a park (not the man pictured).
BankerThe programme was based around a number of individuals who would not normally dream that they could ever face homelessness, but had been brought down by the sheer scale of the financial crisis.
It included Kevin Browne, an investment banker, who moved to the US and ran a firm on Wall Street, until the crash (video below). He said: "The crash comes and the deals dry up but the expenses don't dry up, so you then put your own money in, and then you're hoping that things will turn round, even though in your heart you can't see any vague sign that they will. "
The business went bust, his marriage came to an end, he lost his home, and this month he returned to the UK on a flight paid for by a charity. He told the BBC: "Nobody really thinks that anything good happening to them is ever really going to end. There are various paths in life that we take. It doesn't always turn out as you expect."
HomelessHomelessness is threatening to become an epidemic. According to the programme, every two and a half minutes someone in Britain is threatened with losing their home. The homeless charity, Shelter warned last week that there had been a dramatic increase in demand for help from people at risk of homelessness.
The number of people its helpline has assisted who are either homeless, or face losing their home, has risen by 80% in the last three years. Worryingly, the number of families with children at risk of homelessness assisted by the helpline has increased by 92% over the same period.
The findings come after Shelter's Christmas appeal warned that 75,000 children in Britain will wake up homeless this Christmas, living in temporary accommodation such as bed and breakfasts or hostels. This equates to more than two children in every primary school in Britain, or enough children to fill 333 primary schools.
Why?The charity is concerned that rising rents, increasing living costs and flatlining wages mean more and more families will struggle to keep up with their housing payments and could be at risk of losing their home in the months ahead.
The main triggers for homelessness include relationship breakdowns, job losses, and landlords ending renters' tenancies. Clearly for all of us, each of these things is now more of a risk than ever before. There are more people renting, there are more businesses facing a bleak future, and amidst all of this, relationships are at breaking point.
Homelessness is a threat to us all. We can't protect ourselves against the unknown. However, we can make plans for how we would deal with each of these eventualities. It's not the kind of cheerful job we'd like to be doing at Christmas, but it's worth sitting down and working out how we would cope financially if any of these things happened to us, and the things we could do to reduce the impact.
We need to think about a savings safety net, how we would reduce our outgoings, or how we would increase our income if the worst came to the worst. This could be everything from the small things such as cancelling direct debits and services, to bigger things like taking in a lodger or downsizing.
They're not necessarily things we would have planned for, but are surely better than the alternative.