Home Britain Meet Tom, just one of the 320,000 people who are homeless in...

Meet Tom, just one of the 320,000 people who are homeless in the UK

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It is 6pm, and the rain is falling heavily in Weston-super-Mare.

The seaside town is winding down after the summer season.

But for some of the town's residents, not much will change as winter nights draw in.

Kelly Lewis is driving into the town centre with a car boot full of hot food – her windscreen wipers on full speed and the glare of the oncoming traffic blinds her at times.

She helps a charity that feeds the homeless.

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Image: For some homeless people in Weston, a meal from volunteers is the only food they'll have all day

Gathered together on the corner of the main street are around 20 homeless men. They know Kelly is coming.

"I've been doing this for three years now," said Kelly, who has two children of her own, a foster child and a grandchild at home.

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"I just wanted to give something back. Some of the people I meet I feel so sorry for.

"There's this one guy who I always think about. He's call Tom and he's disabled. He's got no one."

Kelly Lewis helps a charity that feeds the homeless
Image: Kelly Lewis helps a charity that feeds the homeless

At least 320,000 people are homeless in Britain, according to research by the housing charity Shelter.

This amounts to a year-on-year increase of 13,000 – or a 4% rise – despite government pledges to tackle the crisis.

The estimate suggests that one in 200 people are homeless nationally – either living on the street or in temporary accommodation.

Tackling homelessness is a key election promise for all political parties ahead of the 12 December election.

Labour say they want to end homelessness within five years if they win the election, while the Conservatives say they want to tackle homelessness by investing over £1bn by 2020.

For the homeless people of Weston, a delivery of piping hot fish and chips with mushy peas is the only meal they have had all day.

In the corner, dressed all in black and with a bobble hat on, is Tom – the young man Kelly spoke about on her way into town.

His face is weather-beaten and his hands are blue with the cold. He's got a tiny cigarette between two fingers and he's got a gentle West Country accent.

Tom was born with spina bifida
Image: Tom was born with spina bifida

"I was born with spina bifida. There's nothing I can do about it. I've got it for life. But it means I struggle to walk," Tom tells me.

He tells me his mum could not cope, so they fell out and he was forced to leave home.

Tom rented a house but "made some bad choices" and ended up getting thrown out after growing cannabis plants in the back room.

"It's my biggest regret, but I can't do anything about it now," he says.

The more I chat to Tom, the more I realise how vulnerable he is. He has a major disability and does not seem to have much support.

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To make matters worse he's double incontinent, which means he struggles to stay clean and often cannot get to a toilet.

He shows me the inside of his rucksack, which is stuffed full of adult disposable nappies, which he gets from a local charity.

A volunteer at the local night shelter tells me he cannot stay overnight "because of ongoing hygiene issues".

"It's not my fault," he says quietly.

I ask how he gets by day-to-day.

"It's difficult when places close because I can't find a loo."

He says he hopes to have a shower soon but does not know when.

David lives in a converted bus in Cirencester. Since 2012, the number of people sleeping rough in the UK has risen by 33%.
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