The number of homeless Britons rose by a "shocking" 14% in 2011, according to figures released by the Department of Communities and Local Government on Thursday morning.
The rise, which is the biggest for nine years, means the number of homelessness grew by 18% between October and December last year compared to this quarter in 2010, with 69,460 children in homeless households.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said the figures were a "shocking reminder of the divide between the haves and have nots" in Britain: “Amid growing economic gloom and rising unemployment, increasing numbers of ordinary families are falling victim to our housing crisis.
"Some may be priced out of the housing market, forced to bring up their families in a revolving door of private let after private let. Others may have to leave the areas they have always called home, driven out by the cost of housing. And for those we are hearing about in today’s figures, the worst has happened, and they have lost their home altogether.
“We must see radical, urgent action from government to address our broken housing system, or thousands more families will suffer as a result.”
"Today's figures underline how the debt laden economy we inherited is leaving a legacy of hard-up households across the country. But despite this, homelessness remains lower than for 28 of the last 30 years - and is half the average rate seen under the previous government…
"I would urge anyone in difficulty to seek early support. The clear message is, the earlier you act the more options are available to help you avoid homelessness."
Shadow housing minister Jack Dromey said it was a "tragedy" that so many families were suffering.
“With homelessness rising by 14 per cent and an increase in rough sleeping of 23 per cent in 2011, it is time that the government assessed the full impact of its failing policies on homelessness, and I am today writing to the Housing Minister Grant Shapps to demand that he undertakes an assessment of the Government’s policies on homelessness."