Rough sleeping will rocket by 76% by 2027 if power-holders fail to take long-term action on homelessness now, a leading charity has warned.
Crisis has called on the government to urgently overhaul policy as experts estimated that, based on current trends, the number of people living on the streets, in hostels or on someone’s sofa was set to explode over the next decade.
The charity picked out the benefit cap, sanctions, a severe lack of affordable housing, cutbacks to homelessness services and rising rent prices coupled with meagre housing benefit as exacerbating homelessness in the UK today.
It comes as a new analysis, conducted for Crisis by Heriot-Watt University, provides the most complete and up-to-date picture of homelessness across Britain, as well as a 25-year forecast for England, Wales and Scotland.
Nearly 160,000 households (around a quarter of a million people) are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness, the report says.
It estimates that at any one time in 2016:
9,100 people were sleeping rough
68,300 households were sofa surfing
19,300 households were living in unsuitable temporary accommodation
37,200 households were living in hostels
26,000 households were living in other circumstances, including:
8,900 households sleeping in tents, cars or on public transport
12,100 households living in squats
5,000 households in women’s refuges or winter night shelter
The most acute forms of homelessness will continue to climb if policies remain unchanged, the report adds.
By 2027, the overall number is estimated to increase by 26.5% and households in unsuitable temporary accommodation set to nearly double (93%).
And the picture gets even more grim the further forward the prediction jumps, with the number of rough sleepers topping 40,000 by 2041:
How could homelessness be cut?
The analysis also looks at how different policies could make an impact on the projected rise.
It said a 60% increase in new housing could cut homelessness by 19% by 2036, while increased prevention work could reduce levels by 34% in the same period.
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “This year Crisis marks its 50th anniversary, but that’s little cause for celebration.”
He continued: “We still exist because homelessness still exists, and today’s report makes it only too clear that unless we take action as a society, the problem is only going to get worse with every year that passes.
“That means more people sleeping on our streets, in doorways or bus shelters, on the sofas of friends or family, or getting by in hostels and B&Bs. In order to tackle this, we need to first understand the scale of the problem.
“Regardless of what happens in people’s lives, whatever difficulties they face or choices they make, no one should ever have to face homelessness. With the right support at the right time, it doesn’t need to be inevitable. There are solutions, and we’re determined to find them and make them a reality.
“We warmly welcome the Government’s pledge to tackle rough sleeping and other forms of homelessness. Now’s the time for action and long term planning to end homelessness for good.”
John Healey, Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, said: “It is a national scandal that in 21st century Britain the number of people experiencing homelessness is spiralling upwards.
“These new figures are a terrible reminder of the consequences of Conservative Ministers’ seven years of failure on housing.
“The number of people sleeping rough fell under Labour but has risen every year under the Conservatives and has now doubled since 2010.
“This 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.”
Faye Greaves, policy and practice officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), added: “This report really hammers home the scale of our homelessness problem – it is quite frankly disgraceful that thousands of people are sleeping rough on our streets and that so many more don’t have access to a home of their own.
“Homelessness has been steadily rising in all its forms since 2010, partly because of the pressures on the housing market but also some of the welfare changes that have come into force over the past few years.
“Today’s report is a stark warning of the potential outcome if we don’t start taking action now.
“History tells us that we can reduce or even eliminate homelessness but it does require a co-ordinated approach – that means government investment, funding for affordable housing and a concerted effort across the housing and homelessness sectors.”