The number of homeless people in Britain has risen by 17 per cent in the past year, according to figures published by the Government yesterday.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said 11,820 applicants were accepted as homeless by local authorities between April and June. Charities warned that the problem was growing and urged ministers to think again about their cuts to housing benefit.
A rise in homelessness was predicted in a major study by the Pro-Housing Alliance, revealed by The Independent yesterday, which warned that housing conditions in Britain were amongst the worst in western Europe and called for an extra 500,000 homes to be built each year for the next seven years.
Yesterday the charity Crisis issued a report saying that, after years of stable or falling levels of homelessness, last year marked the turning point when it started to rise again due to the economic downturn. It forecast that the worst "is yet to come".
Leslie Morphy, its chief executive, said: "The Government is dismantling the buffers against poverty and unemployment that have traditionally kept a roof over vulnerable households' heads... We need the Government to change course now or risk returning us to the days of countless lives facing the debilitating effects of homelessness."
Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, of the Institute for Housing, Urban and Real Estate Research at Heriot-Watt University, who led the research, said: "The Government's reforms in combination with the pressures of the economic downturn seem certain to increase all forms of homelessness, from rough sleepers on our streets to homeless people hidden out of sight."
Jenny Edwards, chief executive of the charity Homeless Link, said the official figures underlined the need for more affordable housing in the cities and countryside.
Grant Shapps, the Housing minister, insisted homelessness remained at a historic low, but admitted the statistics underlined "how the effects of the worst recession for a generation continue to deliver difficult times for households up and down the country."