Housing

Half of the homeless families in temporary accommodation are working

Expensive private rents, housing benefit freezes and a chronic lack of social homes are trapping workers in short-term homes, according to housing charity Shelter

EPA/Andy Rain

For more than half the number of homeless families trapped in temporary accommodation, working is not a viable way out of poverty, according to new figures from housing charity Shelter.

Freedom of Information requests to the DWP revealed that 55 per cent of families in England without a permanent stable home are in employment.

That equates to 33,000 families holding down a job while forced to live in hostels and other temporary accommodation – a rise of 73 per cent since 2013 when 19,000 families were in the same position.

While this same time period has coincided with a sharp increase in the total number of homeless families (43,750 in 2013 to 60,520 in 2017) the rates of change indicate that there is a problem specific to working families as the total number of families has only increased by 38 per cent.

The North West of England has seen a particular spike with the number of working homeless skyrocketing by 592 per cent since 2013 while the East Midlands and West Midlands have seen rises of 426 and 242 per cent respectively.

This is the reality for people like mum-of-three Mary Smith, 47, who lives in temporary accommodation in Watford after being evicted by her landlord despite working full-time in a shoe shop.

“We’ve lived in three different temporary places in two years, and it’s been really tough on the children,” she said. “Sometimes, I even think that I don’t want to wake up in the morning, but I do. I get on with it because I have other people relying on me.

“I’m not hopeful for our future. I think it’s going to be this constant, vicious circle of moving from temporary place to temporary place, when all my family want is to settle down. We don’t want a palace, we just want a place that we can call home.”

Shelter’s analysis points the finger at rising private rents, housing benefit freezes and a lack of social homes as exacerbating the problem.

They have pledged to focus on the latter in their commission – the Big Conversation – with recommendations on how social housing can help ease the housing crisis.

Polly Neate, CEO of Shelter, said: “It’s disgraceful that even when families are working every hour they can, they’re still forced to live through the grim reality of homelessness.

“In many cases, these are parents who work all day or night before returning to a cramped hostel or B&B where their whole family is forced to share a room. A room with no space for normal family life like cooking, playing or doing homework.

“We cannot allow struggling families to slip through the cracks created by our housing crisis – the government must urgently come up with a new plan for social housing that delivers the genuinely affordable homes we desperately need.”

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: “Everyone deserves a safe and decent place to live and we are providing more than £1.2bn so all those left homeless get the support they need.

“Councils have a duty to provide suitable temporary accommodation to those who need it, and families with children get priority. So families can get a permanent home, we are investing £9bn in affordable properties, including £2bn for social rent housing.”

Image: EPA/Andy Rain

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