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200,000 households in England ‘will be homeless this Christmas’

Crisis urged ministers to commit to a “longer-term approach” to tackling homelessness by increasing the supply of social housing

Hidden homelessness sofa surfing

Hundreds of thousands of families across England will experience homelessness this Christmas and find themselves “trapped” in unstable accommodation, a new report has said. 

Charity Crisis said 200,000 households will be without a permanent home during the festive period, sleeping on the streets or in sheds, garages and B&Bs. Others could find themselves sofa surfing far away from their support networks. 

The annual study revealed that in the last half decade homelessness has been rising year on year, reaching a peak at the end of 2019 when over 219,000 households were without proper accommodation. 

Jon Sparkes, Crisis chief executive, said some people would find themselves “freezing” this Christmas.

“Homelessness is dangerous and devastating, and yet this Christmas there will be thousands of people sleeping on strangers’ floors, freezing in flimsy tents or trapped in rundown B&Bs with nowhere else to go and no one to be with,” he said.

Crisis said there would be a “slight” reduction in homelessness this year after the Everyone In scheme saw 15,000 people housed in hotels and other emergency accommodation at the height of the first national lockdown. 

But the Government has confirmed it will not repeat these large scale efforts during the winter months and the charity warned many would still be without a home on Christmas. 

The charity’s research shows that on any given night, one in 185 people are still without a home.

While rough sleeping remains the most visible form of homelessness, Crisis said more than 95 per cent of homeless households in England are hidden from view due to “drifting” from sofa to sofa or living in insecure temporary accommodation. 

Sparkes added bold Government measures earlier in the year had “unquestionably” protected lives but progress could “unravel” without urgent action. 

“It’s unquestionable that the emergency measures taken to support people sleeping rough into safe accommodation, and the introduction of a ban on evictions, had a significant impact and protected the lives of thousands,” he said. 

“With the economic damage of the pandemic set to be long-lasting, and with millions expected to be out of work by early next year, there is a very real risk homelessness will increase unless urgent action is taken.” 

Crisis is calling on ministers to commit to a “longer-term approach” to tackling homelessness by addressing the shortage in social housing and making sure housing benefit covers the cost of rent. The Government insists it is increasing the supply of affordable housing and has “taken action” to support those struggling to pay rent. 

“We cannot let the progress made this year unravel. We must look towards longer-term solutions, such as building the social homes we desperately need and ensuring that housing benefit continues to cover the true cost of rents, so that people can afford to keep their homes.

“While this Christmas will be different for all of us, Crisis will still be there for the people that need us – providing a safe place to stay, companionship, food and support – and hope for a future away from homelessness.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We are pleased Crisis recognise the unprecedented action we have taken to support the most vulnerable people in our society during the pandemic, backed by over £700 million to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping this year alone.

“Through our £15 million Protect Programme, and the £10 million Cold Weather Fund, we’ve stepped up our support for rough sleepers this winter and have also taken action to support people struggling to pay their rents.

“We’re also increasing the supply of affordable housing, investing over £12 billion through our Affordable Homes Programmes. This includes the largest cash investment in affordable housing for a decade, delivering up to 180,000 new homes.”

Have you been affected by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic? The Big Issue is committed to supporting its readers and find ways to help people stay in their jobs and in their homes through our Ride Out Recession Alliance. Send your stories and ideas to rora@bigissue.com to help us support those who need it most. 

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