The 20th century

The successor to the workhouse was the spike (dormitory housing provided by local boroughs), which was familiar to George Orwell, who stayed in them while researching poverty in Britain.

Some of the more punitive aspects of the workhouses were missing from spikes, but the standard of housing was basic. In the 1930s there were 17,000 people in spikes in the country, and 80 were found sleeping rough during a street count in London.

It was in the 1960s that the nature of homelessness changed and public concern grew. From a post-war low of six people found sleeping rough in London in 1949, the numbers began growing. Cathy Come Home, a gritty TV drama about homelessness, helped raised awareness of the problem. Organisations like Shelter and St Mungo's started up. St Mungo's began housing some of the hundreds sleeping rough in the capital.