In my first year working with homeless people an older colleague, with foreboding, informed me that the homeless people we were supporting were more complex, challenging and needy than anybody had previously experienced. I remember being shocked, considering it remarkable that I should be starting at the very time when the profile of the homeless population was changing so dramatically. It didn’t occur to me to ask ‘how do you know?’
A degree of embellishment in the context of such an emotive issue as homelessness is, perhaps, inevitable. However, when hyperbole descends into factual misinformation, we homelessness campaigners do ourselves no favours. When a high-profile Christmas campaign claimed 80% of London’s rough sleepers to be between 18 and 25, reliable data showing the real figure to be 10% the pointer on the bullshit detector dial really did begin oscillating crazily.