Portsmouth's homeless face up to a bleak Christmas on streets

WITH nearly 600 homeless people dying last year in England and Wales, many are yet again facing up to a Christmas on the street where their lives are at risk.

Sunday, 23rd December 2018, 9:57 am
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 10:45 am
Darren Warman

The stark reality is shown by worrying new government figures which shows a 24 per cent increase of homeless deaths over the last five years.

The latest statistics, collated by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), shows more than half of all deaths of homeless people in 2017 were due to drug poisoning, liver disease or suicide.

The issue was discussed in the House of Commons this week amid calls for more to be done to help people.

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The point was highlighted after a homeless man was found collapsed outside Parliament before dying this week.

The issue of homelessness is heightened at this time of year as most people enjoy the warmth and generosity of family at one of the most special times in the calendar.

But others are not so fortunate and are bracing themselves for a cold lonely Christmas.

Darren Warman, 45, who has been homeless for 12 years after being a labourer for much of his working life, is an annual visitor to the streets of Portsmouth.

This year he is camped out on the seafront, where he has been for the last three weeks.

Discussing his arrangements for Christmas, he said: '˜I have no plans '“ I will probably just walk around and keep myself to myself.

'˜I've heard there might be some food being put on at churches or in some shelters like Hope House, so I may go there for that but I will not stay long.

'˜I don't like staying with other people in the same room as me. I prefer to be alone and on the streets than have to sleep with people I do not know.

'˜I don't know what other homeless do but when I'm not walking around I just lie down. I don't sleep a lot but just try and relax. Sometimes it is very cold, though, and you can feel it right through to your bones.'

Darren told The News that he finds solace in solitude, especially because of the problems he has. He said: '˜I have Tourette's and hear voices which makes me shout and spit sometimes. I prefer to be on my own. I would like to get a place and a job when I can, though.'

Paul Shield, 52, is another homeless person who has been on the streets for more than a decade after falling on hard times.

He said: '˜I have a lot of mental health problems and I'm not bothered about socialising with others for Christmas. I haven't decided what I'm doing but I may go to the Salvation Army or somewhere else.

'˜It's nice what people do for the homeless but it's just another day for me.'