By Isabel Togoh
Some 320,000 people are recorded as homeless in Britain – an “unforgivable” figure equalling the population of Nottingham, analysis from housing charity Shelter shows.
The figure has risen by 13,000 – 4% – over the last year, meaning now one in every 200 people have nowhere to call home, or 36 people each day.
The charity warns that despite repeated Government pledges to fight the issue, a mix of unaffordable rents, frozen housing benefits and a “severe” shortage of social housing are to blame for the deepening crisis.
Cities paint the most dire picture, with one in every 52 people – nearly 170,000 – in London without a home.
In Brighton, the figure is one in 67, while in Birmingham it is one in 73, and one in 135 in Manchester.
In Scotland, 43,000 people, including children, became homeless in 2017, with someone losing their home every 18 minutes.
Analysis shows the problem is rapidly rising in north-west England, the Midlands, and Yorkshire and the Humber.
The figure encompasses rough sleepers as well as well as the “hidden homeless” – people who are “stuck in unstable, temporary accommodation from which they could be moved at any time”, Shelter CEO Polly Neate said.
Official figures on rough-sleeping, temporary accommodation and social services were combined, but the charity warns that the true scale is likely to be even bigger as these records are “not definitive”.
Telli Afrik and his family became homeless after they could no longer afford their privately rented home, even though him and his wife work.
The four of them – Afrik, his wife and his children aged three and five – are now living in their 6th hostel in the London borough of Waltham Forest.
“At first, we were fortunate because we went to live with my aunt. But not long after we moved in, she died of a heart attack and the council took the house back. We were made homeless instantly. I sobbed that night, all of us were in tears,” Afrik said.
Financially we’ve been brought to nothing. My confidence – nothing. My family is at breaking point
“Our current hostel is so cramped and everyone’s competing for space. My family all sleep in one room and we eat our meals on the floor because we don’t have a table. There are two bathrooms but one isn’t in good shape. It’s hard to bathe. It’s just very tough.
“I had a new job as a supermarket manager, but they terminated my contract because I was always at appointments with different housing teams. That was a direct result of our homelessness. Financially we’ve been brought to nothing.
“My confidence – nothing. My family is at breaking point.”
Statistics for Scotland include only people in temporary accommodation, while figures for Wales cover temporary accommodation and known rough sleepers.
It comes as an investigation by HuffPost UK this week revealed hundreds of thousands of rough sleepers were not being recorded in Government data on homelessness.
Analysis of last year’s figures shows 33 of 326 local authorities in England recorded zero rough sleepers for 2017, as a result of unreliable ‘snapshot’ methods which sees councils count rough sleepers on one night in the year.
“It’s unforgivable that 320,000 people in Britain have been swept up by the housing crisis and now have no place to call home. These new figures show that homelessness is having a devastating impact on the lives of people right across the country,” Neate said.
“Due to the perfect storm of spiralling rents, welfare cuts and a total lack of social housing, record numbers of people are sleeping out on the streets or stuck in the cramped confines of a hostel room. We desperately need action now to change tomorrow for the hundreds of thousands whose lives will be blighted by homelessness this winter.
“Shelter’s services have never been more needed. That’s why we’re asking the public to support us this winter so that we can answer as many calls as possible and have trained advisers on hand when people need them most.”
Secretary of State for Housing James Brokenshire said the Government was determined to end homelessness but admitted more could be done.
“No-one should be left without a roof over their head, which is why we are determined to end rough sleeping and respond to the causes of homelessness,” he said in response to the Shelter report.
“Our rough sleeping strategy, support for councils and those working on the front line are helping to get people off the street and into accommodation as we enter the colder winter months.”
He added: “But we know that there is more that we need to do and we’re committed to working with Shelter and others to make a positive difference.”