Five families made homeless every hour, new analysis shows

The figures, which relate to England, are getting worse

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
@joncstone
Friday 27 January 2017 21:09
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Five families are being made homeless in England every hour of the day, according to a “shocking” new analysis of Government figures.

In the last year alone, 43,140 families were accepted as homeless by their local council – a rise of 32 per cent over the last five years, according to the latest figures put out by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The housing charity Shelter has use the figures to forecast that around 3,600 families will be made homeless in the next month, an estimate they say is “conservative”.

This figure amounts to one family losing their home every 12 minutes, or five families per hour.

Graeme Brown, the charity’s interim chief executive, told The Independent that the problem was a “drought of affordable homes” leading to a crisis.

“It’s shocking that every hour, five families in England are predicted to become homeless as a direct result of our worsening housing crisis,” he said.

“At Shelter, we regularly hear from homeless families who are forced to live in one room of a cramped hostel or emergency B&B together, eat their meals off the floor and make siblings share a bed.

“Sadly, with a drought of affordable homes and crippling welfare cuts, we expect to hear from even more of them in the future.

“Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. The Government has the power to provide homes that people on lower incomes can realistically afford to live in. In the meantime, we need the public to help Shelter raise vital funds so that we can continue to provide frontline support to every homeless family that needs us.”

The charity is launching a fundraising drive called Vertical Rush – challenging participants to run up a 42-floor skyscraper called Tower 42 in London in an event to be staged in March.

Labour’s shadow housing minister John Healey said the figures were a “terrible reminder of the consequences of Conservative Ministers’ seven years of failure on housing”.

“This rising problem is a direct result of decisions made by Conservative Ministers: a steep drop in investment for affordable homes, crude cuts to housing benefit, reduced funding for homelessness services, and a refusal to help private renters,” he said.

“Ministers’ long-promised housing white paper will fall at the first hurdle if it does not set out how they will end the national shame of rough sleeping, as Labour has committed to do.”

The Government has pledged to build a million homes by 2020 but is currently not on course to meet its target at the current rate.

However, MPs today backed new backbench legislation – with the Government’s blessing – to put a new duty on councils to intervene and house people who are at risk of becoming homeless.

The Homelessness Reduction Bill enjoys cross-party support but councils have raised concerns that they are not being properly resourced to fulfil their requirements under the new laws.

Rough sleeping is also on the rise, separate figures released this week show (Getty Images)

A DCLG spokesperson acknowledged the analysis and pointed to the Government’s support for the Homelessness Reduction Bill. He said the new legislation would help solve the problem.

“This analysis does not take into account that we’re currently changing the law to prevent more people from becoming homeless,” he said.

“This is on top of £550 million investment until 2020 to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, as well as government-funded projects in 225 local authorities.”

Theresa May announced £20 million to help prevent homelessness at the end of last year, with the cash targeted at so-called “Homelessness Prevention Trailblazers”.

Council services are currently overstretched, however. Research reported by The Independent at the end of last year shows up to a third of homeless young people are being turned away when they seek help from their local authority.

Only 67 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds seeking help were recorded as getting some sort of assistance from their local authority, according to a freedom of information request by the charity Centrepoint.

Separate official figures relating specifically to rough sleeping released on Wednesday this week showed a 16 per cent rise in 2016 compared to 2015.

An increasing proportion of rough sleepers are also recorded as suffering from mental health issues compared to five years ago, a breakdown of the statistics shows.

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