Homelessness is a big issue affecting hundreds of thousands of people across the UK and even more millions of people across the globe.
Despite living in the world’s sixth biggest economy, people are still living with no place to call their home in this country. This injustice must end.
But before you can tackle a problem, you must first learn the scale of the issue. That’s why it is vital that we know the facts and figures about homelessness.
After the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic, households are facing a cost of living crisis in 2022 which could push even more people to the brink of homelessness. The Big Issue is battling to help them keep their home.
Here are the numbers you need to know:
How many people are homeless?
- New government data estimates 2,447 people were sleeping rough on a single night in March 2023. While down on the official snapshot, the figure still represents a rise of 342 people since December 2022, and an increase of 641 people since the same time in 2022.
- The majority of people sleeping rough in England are male, aged over 26 years old and from the UK. Meanwhile the Office for National Statistics found men who are living on the street outnumber women at a ratio of six to one.
- The London-only Combined Homelessness and Information Network (Chain) figures are considered to be more accurate than the official one-night count. The most recent annual count showed 13,325 rough sleepers spotted on London’s streets between April 2022 and June 2023. A total of 3,272 people were counted between April and June 2023 for the most recent quarterly update, representing a rise of more than 10% on the previous year.
- The annual increase was driven by a 26% surge in the number of people spotted on the streets for the first time. A total of 6,391 people were considered new to the streets, up 26% on the 5,091 people in the same situation a year previously.
- In Wales, the official rough sleeping count was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then official management statistics have taken its place. The most recent count showed 126 people were sleeping rough across the country as of April 2023.
- Scotland doesn’t use the same method as England and Wales. The most recent statistics showed 1,184 people who applied for council homelessness support between April and September 2022 reported sleeping rough during the previous three months. Meanwhile, 733 applicants reported being street homeless the night before they applied.
- Women are often missing from rough sleeping counts because they tend to be less visible than male rough sleepers due to the risk of violence on the streets. That means women are more likely to seek shelter in cafes, transport hubs or other places rather than bedding down outside.
- A coalition of homelessness and women’s organisations in London joined forces to tackle the issue in October 2022. The resulting women’s rough sleeping census found 154 women, including trans and non-binary women, sleeping rough in London in a week.
- That number was higher than previously thought with an extra 71 women found across 13 London boroughs when the data was compared to the latest official rough sleeping count. Organisers believed the number could be even higher.
- As for wider homelessness in England, English councils helped more than 278,000 households to prevent or relieve homelessness between April 2021 and March 2022. That’s 16% higher than the previous year but 9% down on pre-Covid levels.
- However, English councils have received calls for help with homelessness from over 80,000 households in the January to March period of this year – the highest number since these records began in 2018.
- In Wales, the official rough sleeping count was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, official monthly management statistics have taken its place. The most recent count showed 154 people were sleeping rough across the country as of May 2023. 10,872 individuals were also reported to be in temporary accommodation during May 2023.
- Scotland’s latest official statistics revealed that 15,414 households were assessed as homeless between April and September 2022. That is a 6% increase on the same period last year and up to a similar level as before the pandemic. Overall there are 28,944 households with open applications for support with homelessness – 11% higher than the same period in 2021 and the highest number on record.
Spending on homelessness
- The UK government is spending £2billion over three years in tackling homelessness and rough sleeping. That breaks down to around £640m a year as it looks to deliver on a Conservative manifesto promise to end rough sleeping by 2024.
- As part of its strategy to achieve that goal, £500m will be spent on the Rough Sleeping Initiative over the next three years to offer 14,000 beds for rough sleepers and 3,000 staff to provide support. A further £200m will be spent on the Single Homelessness Accommodation Programme to provide 2,400 long-term supported homes for people with the most complex needs.
- Homeless Link, the national membership charity for frontline homelessness organisations, criticised the UK government for not uplifting funding to match rising inflation. The group found there were 39% fewer accommodation providers and 26% fewer bed spaces for people experiencing homelessness in England in 2021 compared to 2010 with funding cited as one of the main reasons for the decline.
- The Scottish government has a multi-year Ending Homelessness Together fund of £100m which is being used to deliver on its strategy to end homelessness between 2018/19 and 2025/26.
- Wales, too, has a strategy to end homelessness. The Ending Homelessness Action Plan is backed by £30m in funding over five years.
Homelessness and health
- Three quarters of homeless people quizzed in a 2014 Homeless Link survey reported a physical health problem
- Meanwhile, 80% of respondents reported some form of mental health issue, while 45% had been officially diagnosed with a condition
- 39% said they take drugs or are recovering from a drug problem, while 27% have or are recovering from an alcohol problem.
- 35% had been to A&E and 26% had been admitted to hospital in the six months before they took part in the survey
What do people think about homelessness?
A poll from Ipsos Mori and the Centre for Homelessness Impact, published in April 2021, set out to understand the British public’s perception of homelessness.