Housing

280,000 people are homeless in England this Christmas

Shelter have already revealed that 135,000 kids are homeless in Britain. Now they have released analysis that shows one in 200 people in England are also without a stable home

Sarah Martin Shelter homelessness

Housing charity Shelter has revealed that 280,000 people are recorded as homeless in England – but warned that the figures are likely to be even higher than that.

As they are, Shelter’s ‘This is England: a picture of homelessness in 2019’ report shows a 23,000 increase in the figures since they first started publishing their annual reports in 2016.

The extensive analysis of official rough-sleeping and temporary accommodation figures, along with social services records, shows that one in every 200 people are without a home while a further 220,000 people in England were threatened with homelessness in the last year.

However the UK homeless charity has been quick to point out that the shocking statistics could be the tip of the iceberg, with hidden homelessness and rough sleeping tough to document accurately.

Add the figures to the 135,000 children in Britain that Shelter have already revealed will be homeless this Christmas and the scale of the challenge that Boris Johnson’s new government must face is daunting.

Shelter are clear on the solution: urging the new government to take action to address the dire lack of social homes. They are also issuing a call for the public to support frontline workers with a huge increase of demand at Christmas – Shelter’s emergency helpline already receives a call every 44 seconds with their free webchat used 26,000 times.

“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,” said Polly Neate, Shelter chief executive.

“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 found that homelessness was most acute in London where private rents are notoriously expensive. Their figures showed that one in 52 people are now homeless in the English capital. Newham tops the list with one in 24 people recorded homeless, followed closely by Haringey and Kensington and Chelsea (both one in 29).

Councillor John Gray, Newham Council’s lead member for housing and deputy mayor, insisted that the local authority is pouring an additional £1.4 per year into preventative measures as well as services for rough sleepers. The council also now have a dedicated Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy for the first time in a decade.

Cllr Gray said: “We face enormous challenges in Newham with a shortage of social rented property, high private rents and benefit changes pushing more residents into homelessness. With the raft of measures already implemented and working with partners and the community, we are determined to drastically improve the current situation and reduce the threat of homelessness facing some of our most vulnerable residents.”

Outside the capital, rates of homelessness are stark in areas such as Luton (one in 46), Birmingham (one in 66) and Brighton and Hove (one in 75). Manchester continues to feel the full force of the housing emergency in the north of England, with one in 102 people homeless.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government pointed to the £1.2bn that the government is putting into preventing all forms of homelessness. He said: “Everyone should have somewhere safe to live, and councils have a duty to provide accommodation to those who need it, including families with children.”

Shelter Sarah Martin
Sarah-Martin-Shelter-homelessness-case-study
Council housing officer Sarah Martin, 40, from Brent is trapped in temporary accommodation with 14-year-old son Ishmael after being evicted from her mum's house when she passed away

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.

She said: “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. Shelter got involved with our case and the council agreed the flat isn’t suitable – so fingers crossed we have a real home soon.”

Image: Shelter

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