Number of homeless in England has risen for 3 years in a row report says
185,000 a year affected, say Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, because of benefits cuts and a shortage of housing.
Homelessness has increased for three consecutive years, partly because of housing shortages and cuts to benefits, with an estimated 185,000 people a year now affected in England, a report says.
Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Crisis found almost one in 10 people experience homelessness at some point in their life, with one in 50 experiencing it in the last five years.
The report defined homelessness as people sleeping rough, single people living in temporary accommodation, statutorily homeless households who are currently or imminently without accommodation and “hidden homeless” households, such as those living in severely overcrowded conditions, squatters or “sofa-surfers”.
By analysing official figures, it found visible forms of homelessness are also up, with rough sleeping rising this year by 6% in England and 13% in London. This pushes the two-year increase in the capital to over 60%.
One of the fastest-growing reasons for homelessness is when private tenancies come to an end, and people cannot find or afford an alternative, the report found.
More people are having to be housed in temporary accommodation, including bed and breakfasts, and increasingly people are being sent outside their own area.
The research found there was a housing “pressure cooker”, especially in London and the south-east, which was contributing to the increase in homelessness. It also identified causes as rising housing costs, and cuts to benefits and services.
It warned that reforms introduced earlier this year, including the so-called bedroom tax, are already having an impact, most notably in the Midlands and the north.
The overall benefit cap for out-of-work households is particularly hitting larger families in London, it added.
Responding to the report, Emma Reynolds, the shadow housing minister, accused David Cameron of breaking his promises to tackle homelessness and get Britain building.
“Homelessness has risen every year under this government, the number of families with children living in bed and breakfasts is at a 10-year high and house-building is at its lowest in peacetime since the 1920s,” she said.
Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, urged the government to address a chronic lack of affordable housing and consider the impact of its cuts to housing benefit, such as the bedroom tax, welfare cap and shared accommodation rate.
“We keep hearing that the economy is on the mend. Yet as we watch our GDP figures slowly rise, cuts to housing benefit and woefully inadequate house building will keep pushing up homelessness.
“Shamefully, it is the poorest and most vulnerable that are bearing the brunt,” she said.
Her call was echoed by Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, who said homelessness was the “tragic consequence of failures in our housing system”.
“It carries enormous cost for both the people facing destitution and society as a whole,” she said. “To avoid these figures going in the wrong direction, we need to address the underlying causes of homelessness urgently.
“That means building the affordable homes this country desperately needs and providing a proper safety net for when people are unfortunate enough to fall on hard times.”
However, Kris Hopkins, a Conservative housing minister, said the government already had “strong measures to protect families against the threat of homelessness and acted decisively to introduce a more accurate assessment of previously hidden rough sleeping”.
“We have supported the national roll-out of No Second Night Out to prevent persistent rough sleeping, and given councils greater freedoms to house people in private rented homes.
“On top of this we have provided nearly £1bn for councils to reduce homelessness and support those affected, while delivering 170,000 more affordable homes since 2010.
“All this has meant statutory homelessness remains at a lower level than it was in 27 of the last 30 years.”