* * *A number of people in Britain and the US are homeless. Many are forced to sleep on the streets (BrE also sleep rough or be a rough sleeper) because they have nowhere else to go. Formerly, people who had no permanent home were called tramps or vagrants. Most were older people. Now, many younger people are homeless. In the US the typical image of a homeless person is of a single man or an older woman. The women are sometimes called bag ladies, because they carry their things around in large bags. But many families with small children are also homeless.Homeless people sleep in shop doorways, under bridges, or anywhere they can find away from the wind and rain. In Britain, the alternative to sleeping rough may be to live in a squat. Squatters can only be evicted by the owner after a formal court order has been obtained.Not all homeless people sleep rough or squat. In Britain, a government campaign aims to prevent sleeping rough and begging. Local councils are legally required to find somewhere for homeless people to live, and many families are housed in bed-and-breakfast accommodation. Charities such as Shelter, Centre Point and the Salvation Army run hostels for the homeless. Each winter around Christmas, they also organize campaigns which raise money to provide extra night shelters and soup kitchens (= places giving free hot food).In the US many towns have laws making it illegal to sleep on the streets, so the police may tell people to move during the night. The US also has shelters but it is not easy to get a bed in one. Many do not have enough space, or have only enough money to stay open for part of the year. They are often away from the centre of town, and people need to have money for the bus fare to get there.For many people, homelessness begins when they lose their jobs and cannot pay their rent. Some become homeless as a result of family quarrels, broken relationships, violence, and mental illness. Some homeless people survive by begging. In Britain homeless people have an opportunity to help themselves selling The Big Issue magazine: they buy copies of the magazine and sell them at a higher, fixed price to members of the public. There are similar publications in the US, but they are less popular.Many people give to charities, or to the homeless on the streets, but some think homeless people are wasters (= spend money carelessly), or are too lazy to work, and are responsible for their own situation. Americans generally believe that people should work hard to help themselves, instead of taking money from the government. For that reason, many Americans will give money to charities, but are opposed to a system of government benefits. But homeless people who have no address have difficulty getting the limited kinds of help available from the government.
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