>> A refuge from life on the streets. Christmas shelters like this one opened across the UK on Friday run by the charity Crisis. It says the number of rough sleepers rose by a third last year alone.>> I'm Lucy Fielder reporting for Reuters from a crisis shelter in London.
For a week every year these places don't just provide a roof, a square meal, and medical services, but most importantly, companionship, at what for many is the loneliest time of the year. Mental illness forced Mark to leave his office job. Seeing benefits as begging, he eked out his savings until he found himself destitute.
>> People who assist you give you back your humanity. Because being homeless makes you feel inhuman. It makes you feel that you belong. That's a big, big thing. It's difficult being homeless. You don't have enough to see the world go by on a daily basis.>> A parliamentary enquiry in August said the government's austerity drive was pushing up homelessness.
It blamed welfare cuts and laws making it harder to claim benefits and called on the government to change direction. A new crisis study also shows how dangerous life on the streets can be.>> We found that, if you're rough sleeping, you're 17 times more likely to be the victim of violence than the general public.
That's one in three. And some of those statistics are just so disturbing.>> Those people were hit, kicked, or had things thrown at them. Almost one in ten homeless people were urinated on last year. It's little wonder, then, that these guests tell us that one of the best things about the shelters is the brief sense of safety they give at Christmas.