Despite Government Pledges, Homelessness Is Still Rising - This Is Now A National Emergency

We need action today to change tomorrow for the 320,000 Britons without a home
Mary Turner / Reuters

Despite repeated government pledges, targets and commitments, our new report reveals the number of people in Britain recorded as homeless has risen yet again.

320,000 people in Britain are currently without a home. That’s the entire population of Nottingham.

This is a national emergency and we desperately need action now to change tomorrow.

Action for families like the mum, dad and two young children who came to Shelter recently when things couldn’t get much worse. Despite both parents working, they could no longer afford the rent on their home and had to move out.

An aunt was able to take them in, but then the family were devastated by her death months later. The council took the house back and the family had nowhere to go.

After spending the night on the floor of a kind passer-by, rather than in a bus stop, the family got in touch with Shelter. Our advisers insisted the council get involved and the family were placed in emergency accommodation.

They’ve been moved from hostel to hostel (and are currently in their sixth) while they wait for a permanent home to be found for them. That’s more moves than many people have in a lifetime. It’s better than the streets, but it’s hardly how you want your children to be growing up; sharing a bed with their parents and a bathroom with strangers.

Our research shows that in the past year alone, the number of homeless people in Britain has increased by 13,000. This means that one in every 200 people have no place to call home.

In the capital - where the housing crisis is at its peak - that figure is one person in every 52. In Brighton, one in 67 people is homeless and sleeping on the streets or spending the night in temporary accommodation. In Birmingham it’s one in 73 and in Manchester it’s one person in every 135.

Homelessness is everywhere. When you walk around your local town you can no longer miss the increasing number of people forced to sleep on the streets. But that barely scratches the surface. For every person recorded as spending a night out in the cold, 50 others are stuck in unstable, temporary accommodation from which they could be moved at any time.

That person could be your bus driver, the barista who served your morning coffee, a colleague, or a child you pass as they make their way to school. The ‘hidden homeless’ are in fact very visible - we just don’t realise it.

Our new report ‘Homelessness in Great Britain: the numbers behind the story’, shows the results of consecutive governments failing to build enough social homes that families can actually afford. This, coupled with sky-high rents and crippling cuts to housing benefit, means more and more people are finding it impossible to make ends meet.

If we want to get to grips with homelessness, we must tackle the root causes instead of merely applying sticking plasters to the wound.

But until that happens, Shelter advisers will be here for as long as they’re needed – determinedly working 365 days a year to make sure no family is left to battle homelessness alone.

Polly Neate is the chief executive of Shelter


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