Homelessness charity Thames Reach yesterday launched a campaign to highlight the plight of former rough sleepers who are old before their time.
It said increasing numbers of people, particularly in London, were “young olds” – middle-aged but with health problems associated with older age, such as heart and liver disease, loss of memory, poor mobility or incontinence.
Thames Reach previously raised the issue in 2005 but yesterday warned councils were both unaware of the emergence of the group nor the need to provide housing and support.
The charity said the group’s problems were typically caused by heavy drinking – for instance of super strength lagers – and many years spent sleeping rough.
It said some had substance abuse and mental health problems, or engaged in challenging behaviour, and many were stuck in unsuitable, temporary housing, such as hostels, where they were blocking beds for current rough sleepers.
Thames Reach called for local authorities to commission specialist, permanent accommodation for the group.
Its chief executive, Jeremy Swain, said: “I recently asked a manager why John, one of our most vulnerable residents, was not living in a registered care home. I was staggered to find out that John was actually 47, not 67. John encapsulates the problem faced by people who because of their life histories, are old before their time.”