Homeless people to get stab-proof coats that turn into sleeping bags amid growing violence

Homeless figures released: more than 4,500 sleeping rough on England’s streets

Homeless people are being given stab-proof coats that turn into sleeping bags to help keep them safe, amid a rise in reports of violent attacks on rough sleepers.

According to homeless charity Crisis, people sleeping on the street are almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence and 15 times more likely to have suffered verbal abuse in the past year compared to the general public.

The garments are being developed by Red Dragon – a social enterprise flagmakers that employs formerly homeless people and ex-offenders – and Llamau – a homeless charity in Cardiff.

The coats, which cost £700 to make, are currently being trialled in Wales with plans to roll out initially in the south of the country.

Aptly named the Roof Coat Bag, the garment is undergoing accreditation tests for water, fire and slash proofing, moisture wicking and safety to freezing temperatures.

It also features military grade strong zips and fittings, and can be fitted with internal stab-proof pockets.

“Anybody who is wearing the roof coat is as safe as possible,” Frances Beecher, the chief executive of Llamau, told the Guardian.

“But this is a stopgap and must lead to getting the person into a safer environment, which is off the street.”

The initiative follows a string of reports on violent attacks on rough sleepers.

In January, a homeless man in the Swanswell Park and Pool area of Coventry was “deliberately” set on fire as he was sleeping in a park, leaving him with “severe burns”.

Just weeks earlier, a separate incident saw a homeless man left with nothing but the clothes on his back after his van was engulfed by flames in what was suspected to be a deliberate attack in Whitstable, Kent.

During Bonfire Night celebrations in Liverpool in 2018, another homeless man was left with red marks on his skin after a group of youths reportedly dropped a lit firework into his pocket.

Last year, research from homeless charity Crisis revealed that more than 170,000 individuals and families were experiencing destitution as the numbers of rough sleepers doubled in five years.

The scale of homelessness was 13 per cent higher in 2017 compared to 2012, with an increase seen every year in between, according to the report.

These figures came at the same time official statistics revealed that nearly 600 homeless people died in England and Wales in 2017, a rise of almost a quarter (24 per cent) over five years.

On average the rough sleepers were dying at the age of 44 – a life expectancy nearly half that of people in stable housing – because of high rates of suicide, drug poisonings and alcohol-related issues.

As a result, Crisis called on the government to tackle the underlying causes of homelessness, which it attributes to a shortage of social housing and welfare payments failing to cover private rents.

At the time, chief executive of Crisis Jon Sparkes said the government “must make sure that when people do become homeless, they are rehoused quickly, and with the support they need to keep their homes, whether it’s help to find employment, mental health support or drug and alcohol services.

“Ultimately, we must stop these tragedies from happening year after year. Homelessness can and must be ended, but only if the root causes are tackled.”

If you or someone you know is in urgent need of housing advice you can call Shelter on 0808 800 4444 or speak in person to one of its expert local housing advisers at a number of locations, which can be found here.

Members of the LGBT+ community can also contact the Albert Kennedy Trust on 020 7831 6562 or the LGBT SwitchBoard on 0300 330 0630.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in