While the 1824 Vagrancy Act remains on the books, rough sleepers are being punished rather than being offered help

While the government continues its steady and self-absorbed disintegration over Brexit, the country outside the Palace of Westminster is in crisis. As I write this, across the country temperatures have fallen below freezing, and the threat to life for those forced to live on Britain’s streets is dire. A combination of cruel Tory austerity and a decades-long housing crisis have left more and more people facing homelessness and rough sleeping.

The result? The number of people experiencing rough sleeping has doubled in just five years. In modern, rich Britain, the visible humanitarian crisis that is homelessness on our streets resembles scenes from a Dickens novel. At least 597 people have died on the streets in the past year.

Related: Homeless deaths rise by a quarter in five years, official figures show

There are cases of rough sleepers having been arrested as many as 17 times

Related: This radical plan could be the way to get social housing back on track | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

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