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‘Beds not bins for the homeless’

Waste firms and charities call for urgent action to stop bin sleeping on day a man's body is found in a rubbish lorry

BRITAIN’S “shameful” homelessness crisis has caused a rise in the number of rough sleepers being crushed to death in bins, waste firms and charities warned today.

The warning came with a new report commissioned by waste management company Biffa, the Open University and the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management.

It revealed that at least seven people taking shelter in waste containers have been killed after being tipped into bin lorries over the last five years.

And workers at Biffa also reported 109 near misses between April and December 2019.

The report, which surveyed 57 disposal units and councils, found that over a third had discovered rough sleepers in bins.

Researchers found that the problem is prevalent all year round, not just in the winter.

Charities and waste industry bosses blamed the “terrible fatalities” on the rise of homelessness in Britain, with the report citing a 70 per cent increase in the number of people sleeping rough since 2014.

Biffa started issuing safety guidance to employees on the issue of bin sleeping five years ago, but chief executive Michael Topham said that the problem was only getting worse.

The call for urgent action came on the same day that the body of a man was discovered in a Biffa bin lorry in Camberwell, south London.

The Met Police has opened an investigation into his death, which it was treating as “unexplained.”

Chartered Institution of Wastes Management president Trevor Nicoll warned that the issue of bin sleeping is “likely to grow” as the number of rough sleepers continues to rise. 

Petra Salva, the head of rough sleeping at homelessness charity St Mungo’s, said: “As this report notes, regrettably, homelessness and rough sleeping has risen drastically over the last decade.

“Terrible fatalities occur when people seek refuge in bins. We think it’s unacceptable that people are forced to sleep rough in the first place but almost unthinkable that people are so desperate that they will seek refuge in bin containers.”

Shadow home secretary John Healey pinned the blame on the Tories, who have presided over record-high levels of homelessness.

“The scale of rough sleeping shames us all,” he said.

“But it shames the Conservatives most of all because it is decisions by Conservative ministers to slash funding for housing benefit, homelessness services and new council and social homes that are directly responsible for the increase in people living and dying on our streets.

“After 10 years of failure, the Conservatives must act to end rough sleeping for good, starting by making 8,000 homes available for people with a history of rough sleeping.”

Brixton Soup Kitchen co-founder Solomon Smith told the Morning Star that many rough sleepers choose to take shelter in bins because it’s often safer than sleeping on the street. 

“We get a lot of people coming into the soup kitchen who are sleeping in bins because it is mainly the safest place where they can be overnight,” he said. 

Mr Smith said that he had witnessed many near misses first hand.

“I’ve seen a lot of people in bins and they wake up because they can feel the bin moving. But sometimes homeless people will be in those bins and won’t feel it,” he explained. 

Mr Smith blamed the rise on a “lack of housing, lack of support and lack of funding to support homeless people.” 

A housing ministry spokesperson said that it was “completely unacceptable that anyone should have to face sleeping in these conditions in modern Britain.

“This does not reflect the society we should be and this is why we have committed to ending rough sleeping by the end of this parliament.”

But despite the government’s pledge, homelessness in Britain has continued to rise. 

In November 2019, the Greater London Assembly reported a 50 per cent increase in the number of people sleeping on the streets from 2018.

Deaths have also increased drastically, with 726 homeless people losing their lives in England and Wales in 2018 – a rise of 51 per cent since 2013.

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