UK charity Shelter has estimated that 320,000 Britons are homeless. It looked into government figures for homelessness and rough sleeping for England, Scotland and Wales, and discovered that one in 200 people now lives in insecure housing. Shelter also took into account homeless-hostel bed spaces and social-services provision of temporary accommodation for families in crisis.
However, this already-large figure is likely to be smaller than the actual number. This is due to Shelter being unable to account for those who experience “hidden” homelessness, ie people living in their cars or couch-surfers.
The number of homeless people in the UK is on the rise. In 2016, the charity estimated there were 255,000 homeless people in England alone, with 294,000 across Britain. The majority of those affected by housing insecurity – roughly 295,000 – are in varying forms of temporary accommodation, after being deemed homeless by local authorities.
Shelter’s chief executive, Polly Neate, said we need to take drastic action now for the hundreds of thousands who will be affected by homelessness this winter.
“Due to the perfect storm of spiralling 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,” Neate said.
London has 170,000 homeless people, and Newham in east London has the highest homelessness rate in England. At least one in every 24 people faces housing insecurity, with almost 15,000 in temporary accommodation in the borough.
The Homelessness Reduction Act was introduced back in May, in the hope it would pressure local authorities to prevent at-risk households from falling into homelessness. The government says it is investing £1.2bn to tackle the homelessness crisis and aims to eliminate rough sleeping by 2027.
Housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire admitted the government could do more. “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 said.
He continued: “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.”
Homelessness and housing insecurity are also increasing in the Midlands and wider south-east England area. The highest rates in England, outside of London, were recorded in Birmingham, Brighton, Slough, Milton Keynes and Reading, among many others.
The West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside have seen the fastest-growing housing-insecurity rates, with 12% increases, but homelessness in the south west and north east of England have fallen by 8%.
The shadow housing minister, Melanie Onn, 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.”