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?
- In terms of street homelessness, official rough sleeping statistics showed the number of people living on the streets fell in England during the Covid-19 pandemic with an estimated 2,440 people sleeping rough counted on a single night in autumn 2021.
- That’s down by 250 people or 9 per cent from 2020 and almost half the peak recorded in 2017. But it remains 670 people or 38 per cent higher than in 2010.
- 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 count. The most recent annual count showed 8,239 rough sleepers were spotted on London’s streets between April 2021 and March 2022. That was down by a quarter on the 11,018 recorded in the previous year.
- The most recent quarterly Chain figures showed 3,570 people were sleeping rough in London between October and December 2022 – a 21 per cent rise on the same period in 2021. The surge was driven by the cost of living crisis with almost half of the people spotted by outreach workers (around 1,700) sleeping rough for the first time.
- 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 160 people were sleeping rough across the country as of September 2022.
- 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.
- 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 per cent higher than the previous year but 9 per cent down on pre-Covid levels.
- For Wales, the latest statutory homelessness figures showed 11,704 households were assessed as homeless or owed a duty by local councils to help them into secure accommodation between April 2021 and March 2022. That an 11 per cent decrease on the number of households who needed support in 2020/21
- Scotland’s latest official statistics revealed that 15,414 households were assessed as homeless between April and September 2022. That is a 6 per cent 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 per cent 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 per cent fewer accommodation providers and 26 per cent 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 per cent of respondents reported some form of mental health issue, while 45 per cent had been officially diagnosed with a condition
- 39 per cent said they take drugs or are recovering from a drug problem, while 27 per cent have or are recovering from an alcohol problem.
- 35 per cent had been to A&E and 26 per cent 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.
The research found just under nine in ten people agreed homelessness is a serious problem in the UK and almost three quarters said they believe it does not get the attention it deserves.