UK homelessness surges annually, data shows


More than 320,000 people are recorded this year as homeless in Britain, analysis from housing charity Shelter shows.

The figures show that the number of homeless people in the UK is soaring by a rate of more than 1,000 a month.

This amounts to a year-on-year increase of 13,000, a 4% rise, despite government pledges to tackle the crisis. The estimate suggests that nationally one in 200 people are homeless.

The charity warns that despite repeated Government pledges to fight the issue, a mix of unaffordable rents, frozen housing benefits and a “severe” shortage of social housing are to blame for the deepening crisis.

Cities paint a dire picture, with one in every 52 people – nearly 170,000 – in London without a home.

In Brighton, the figure is 1in 67, while in Birmingham it is 1 in 73, and 1 in 135 in Manchester.

In Scotland, 43,000 people, including children, became homeless in 2017, with on average, someone losing their home approximately every 18 minutes.

Analysis shows the problem is rapidly rising in north-west England, the Midlands, and Yorkshire and the Humber.

Shelter says its figures, which include rough sleepers and people in temporary accommodation, are likely to be an underestimate of the problem as they do not account for people who experience “hidden” homelessness, such as sofa-surfers, and others living insecurely in sheds or cars, or other accommodation.

The figures indicate how homelessness and housing insecurity is spreading beyond the traditional heartland of London into the wider south-east and Midlands, and the impact of high rents and welfare cuts ripples outwards.

The 320,000 figure for England, Wales and Scotland was reached by combining government homelessness and rough-sleeping statistics at July 2018 with data on homeless hostel bed spaces and social services provision of temporary accommodation for families in crisis.

The bulk of those affected, 295,000, are in forms of temporary accommodation after being accepted as homeless by their local authority.

It is Shelter’s third annual analysis of homelessness. In 2016, it estimated there were 255,000 homeless people in England alone, a figure it subsequently adjusted to 294,000 for Britain. This rose to 307,000 in 2017.

Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “Due to the perfect storm of spiraling rents, welfare cuts and a total lack of social housing, record numbers of people are sleeping out on the streets or stuck in the cramped confines of a hostel room. We desperately need action now to change tomorrow for the hundreds of thousands whose lives will be blighted by homelessness this winter.”

The Housing and Communities Secretary, James Brokenshire, said the government was determined to end homelessness but conceded more could be done. “No one should be left without a roof over their head, which is why we are determined to end rough sleeping and respond to the causes of homelessness.”

He added: “Our rough-sleeping strategy, support for councils and those working on the frontline are helping to get people off the street and into accommodation as we enter the colder winter months. But we know that there is more that we need to do and we’re committed to working with Shelter and others to make a positive difference.”

The government’s Homelessness Reduction Act came into force in May with the aim of forcing local authorities to take steps to prevent households at risk from falling into homelessness. It has also aims to eliminate rough sleeping by 2027.

Melanie Onn, the shadow housing minister, said: “It is appalling that enough people to fill a city the size of Newcastle will wake up this Christmas without a home. This is the outcome of eight years of austerity that even the United Nations say was designed to hurt the poor.”

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