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300,000 people in Britain are now homeless, study reveals

Shelter warns of growing crisis with 13,000 more people either sleeping rough or in temporary accommodation compared to last year

Benjamin Kentish
Wednesday 08 November 2017 01:10 GMT
Homelessness has increased by 34 per cent since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, partly due to benefit cuts and welfare changes
Homelessness has increased by 34 per cent since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, partly due to benefit cuts and welfare changes (PA)

More than 300,000 people – equivalent to a city the size of Newcastle – are now categorised as homeless in Britain after a spike in numbers in the last year, a report has revealed.

The study, by housing charity Shelter, found that 307,000, or one in every 200, people are now either sleeping rough or in temporary accommodation.

Although the figure has risen by 13,000 in the last year alone, Shelter said the partial nature of government data means the real number of homeless people is likely to be even higher.

Government welfare changes, including the introduction of Universal Credit and cuts to housing benefit, are partly to blame for the crisis, the charity said.

It added that a “drought” of affordable homes had also made it particularly hard for people to escape homelessness.

The surge in the number of people becoming homeless is especially stark in some areas of the country, with London bearing the brunt of the crisis.

The problem is most acute in the borough of Newham, where one in every 25 people is homeless. The boroughs of Haringey (one in 29), Westminster (one in 31) and Enfield (one in 33) follow not far behind.

While the 10 local authorities with the highest rates of homelessness, and 18 of the top 20, are in the capital, cities including Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol also feature in the 50 worst-affected areas.

The study is the most extensive of its kind to date and incorporates official statistics on how many people are sleeping rough - more than 4,000 - and how many are in temporary accommodation. Figures from social services were also used to compile the data.

Highlighting how local authorities struggle to find affordable homes for people they have a statutory obligation to help, Shelter said more than a third of people currently living in temporary accommodation will still be homeless in a year’s time.

The Independent has previously revealed that homelessness has increased by 34 per cent since the Conservatives entered office in 2010.

Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “It’s shocking to think that today, more than 300,000 people in Britain are waking up homeless. Some will have spent the night shivering on a cold pavement, others crammed into a dingy, hostel room with their children. And what is worse, many are simply unaccounted for.

“On a daily basis, we speak to hundreds of people and families who are desperately trying to escape the devastating trap of homelessness. A trap that is tightening thanks to decades of failure to build enough affordable homes and the impact of welfare cuts.

“As this crisis continues to unfold, the work of our frontline services remains absolutely critical. We will do all we can to make sure no one is left to fight homelessness on their own. But we cannot achieve this alone; we urgently need the public’s support to be there for everyone who needs us right now.”

Labour said the Government should be ashamed of the figures.

John Healey, the party’s Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, said: “These new figures should shame ministers. After an unprecedented decline in homelessness under Labour, government policy decisions are directly responsible for spiralling homelessness since 2010.

“You can’t help the homeless without the homes, and ministers have driven new affordable house-building to a 24-year low as well as cutting back housing support for people on low incomes.

“Labour will set out a plan to end rough sleeping within a Parliament, and tackle the root causes of rising homelessness with thousands more genuinely affordable homes and new protections for private renters.”

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: “We are determined to tackle all forms of homelessness, which includes making sure people in temporary accommodation are getting support to keep a roof over their heads.

“We’re investing £950m by 2020 to support these efforts, and bringing in the Homelessness Reduction Act. This requires councils to provide early support to people at risk of being left without anywhere to go.

“In 2011 we gave councils the power to place families in decent and affordable private rented homes, so they can move into settled accommodation more quickly. We have also recently announced a £2bn funding boost to build more social housing, including council homes.”

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