WINTRY weather sharpens inequality and there is no group more threatened by freezing weather than people forced to sleep rough.

In the past nine years, the number of people without a roof over their heads in England has risen, although recent official figures show a two per cent decrease. The number of deaths of rough sleepers has also risen sharply.

The Office for National Statistics says the average age of death for a homeless person is 44 for men and 42 for women, compared with 76 and 81 in the general population.

Rough sleepers are at the sharp edge of a bigger homelessness crisis, because there are more than 80,000 households in temporary accommodation. What the families in temporary or overcrowded homes, or the hidden homeless sofa surfing, or rough sleepers need most is a suitable place to live – in the winter more than ever.

The Government’s acknowledgement of the problem is £100m of new funding and a promise of 200,000 new homes, mostly to buy. They have pledged to end rough sleeping by 2027. But because councils have seen massive cuts to central government grants their best efforts to provide new homes is just not enough.

Action is needed to tackle root causes, tighter regulations of the private rented sector are needed and the greater role of housing co-operatives explored.

Any one of us could fall on hard times, so we must do as much as we can and set as much up as we can and hope that it works because no one should sleep rough on our streets.