New figures from Shelter reveal 280,000 people are recorded as homeless in England, an increase of 23,000 since 2016 when the charity first published its landmark annual report.
Shelter’s extensive analysis of official rough-sleeping and temporary accommodation figures, along with social services records, shows that in one in every 200 people are without a home. For the first time, its review of government data has also exposed that close to 220,000 people in England were threatened with homelessness in the last year.
Despite being the most comprehensive overview of homelessness in the country, it’s widely known that a lot of homelessness goes undocumented, including sofa surfing and some rough sleeping. This means the true level of homelessness will be even higher than today’s count. Shelter is warning that unless the new government takes urgent action to address the dire lack of social homes at the crux of this emergency, the situation is likely to get worse.
Alongside its bid to get more social housing built, the charity is calling on the public to support its frontline workers as they grapple with huge demand this Christmas. In the last year, a call was made to Shelter’s emergency helpline every 44 seconds and its free webchat service was used almost 26,000 times.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Homelessness blights lives and leaves a lasting imprint of trauma, and yet 280,000 people in England are without a home this Christmas. And many are only days away from joining them.
“As well as those facing serious ill-health or even death sleeping rough on our streets this winter, there are thousands of families trapped in grotty emergency B&Bs, with no space for children to sit and eat, let alone play. This is the grim truth our new government must confront and do something radical to change.
“Until the government acts to stem this crisis, the work of our frontline advisers remains critical. With the public’s support we will do everything we can to help people find a safe and stable place to live – no matter how long it takes.”
The charity’s report, ‘This is England: a picture of homelessness in 2019’, identifies the local areas across the country where homelessness is most acute. London – where private rents are notoriously expensive – comes out worst, with 1 in 52 people now homeless in the capital. Newham tops the list where it is 1 in 24, followed closely by Haringey and Kensington and Chelsea (both 1 in 29).
Outside the capital, rates of homelessness are stark in areas such as Luton (1 in 46), Birmingham (1 in 66) and Brighton and Hove (1 in 75). Manchester continues to feel the full force of the housing emergency in the north of England, with 1 in 102 people homeless.
To donate to Shelter’s urgent Christmas appeal please visit www.shelter.org.uk or text SHELTER to 70030 to donate £3. Texts cost your standard network rate + £3. Shelter receives 100% of your donation.
Case study: Sarah Martin, 40, from Brent in North West London lives in temporary accommodation with her 14-year-old son, Ishmael. They became homeless after Sarah’s mum passed away and they were evicted from her mum’s house. Sarah works full time as a housing officer for a local council herself.
Sarah says: “I suffered a mini-stroke as a result of MS, which led to myself and Ishmael moving back in with my mum for extra support. We were dealt another blow when my mum passed away – before I even had time to grieve, we were facing eviction from the place we’d called home for years.
“We ended up in a hostel for over a year. It was squalid. There were cockroaches everywhere and we had to share a bathroom and kitchen with other tenants. People would stumble around the corridors wild-eyed on drink and drugs and one poor woman tried to set herself alight. It was completely terrifying. Ishmael’s cheeky smile vanished, replaced by a nervous frown. He had been getting really good grades at school but they plummeted.
“We finally moved out of the hostel and into a flat this summer, which is also temporary accommodation. I’m so happy to be out of the hostel, but our current place is still riddled with problems. Water constantly leaks from the above flat, which leaves the walls, carpets and floors soaking wet. Shelter got involved with our case and the council agreed the flat isn’t suitable – so fingers crossed we have a real home soon.”