Housing

Hundreds of thousands of people in England will spend this Christmas homeless: 'Out of control'

One in 182 people living in England are homeless, including 140,000 children. That’s a 14% increase in a year as the housing emergency spins out of control

309,000 people are homeless in England say Shelter

Thousands of families, including 140,000 children, are living in unsuitable temporary accommodation often riddled with damp and mould. Image: Shelter

At least 309,000 people in England will spend Christmas homeless, warned Shelter, as the number of people without a home surged in 2023.

An estimated one in 182 people living in England are now experiencing homelessness, including 140,000 children, according to the housing charity’s analysis of official homelessness figures and responses to freedom of information requests.

The combination of the cost of living and housing crises has seen numbers skyrocket in the last year with an extra 38,100 people falling into homelessness – up 14% in just 12 months.

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Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Homelessness is on nobody’s Christmas list, but 309,000 people will spend this time of year in a tiny hostel room or freezing in a doorway.

“The housing emergency is out of control. Chronic underinvestment in social homes has left people unable to afford skyrocketing private rents and plunged record numbers into homelessness. It is appalling that the government has allowed thousands of families to be packed into damp and dirty B&Bs and hostel rooms, which are traumatising children and making people desperately ill.”

All kinds of homelessness have surged in the last year.

Despite being just a year away from the government’s target of ending rough sleeping, more than 3,000 people are experiencing street homelessness – up 26% annually.

There are also 20,000 people living in hostels or supported accommodation.

Meanwhile the number of households living in temporary accommodation has continued to hit record heights that have seen some councils warn the annual £1.74bn bill facing local authorities could drive them to financial ruin.

Shelter found 279,400 people are living in temporary accommodation – 14% higher than a year ago.

That means thousands of families like Sky’s (not her real name) are living in limbo and the government’s own figures reveal that almost half of families who are homeless in temporary accommodation have been there for more than two years.

The 44 year old, her disabled husband and their three children, aged seven, 16 and 21 have been homeless and living in temporary accommodation in Newham for the past five years.

309,000 people are homeless in England say Shelter
One in every 182 people living in England are now homeless as the housing emergency continues to get worse. Image: Shelter

Sky is a civil servant and the family lost their home due to a Section 21 no-fault eviction. They have now been moved to a new property but have continued to live in a property where there are problems with damp and mould. 

“The temporary accommodation we were given when we became homeless had severe mould and leaks that dripped through the electrics,” said Sky. “We also had mice and they would go through our bread in the morning. My son has mould beside his bed in the bedroom. This made his health deteriorate and he struggled to breath. Eventually he got a skin condition and a cyst in his throat and had to take medication. 

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“No human being should live in conditions like that. None of it was fair on me, my children and our health. The worst part is not knowing where I will be next and how long I will be in temporary accommodation for. I used to just go and sit in my car and just look at the sky. I thought that if I broke down, the whole family would break down.” 

Newham has the highest rate of homelessness in England with one in 20 people homeless in the London borough. In wider London, one in 51 people are experiencing homelessness. The English capital has seen 11% rise in homelessness with 167,000 people without a secure home.

Outside London, Luton has the highest rate of homelessness at one in 64 people followed by Birmingham and Manchester where one in 71 people are homeless and Hastings where one in 79 people are without a home.

The East Midlands has seen the biggest surge in 2023, up by a third from 5,900 people to almost 7,900 people.

Shelter warned the figures are likely an underestimate with many more people experiencing hidden homelessness, including sofa surfing with friends or relatives.

Neate added: “Until the government takes this emergency seriously, our frontline services will do everything they can to help people keep or find a safe home this winter.”

A government spokesperson said: “Everyone deserves a safe place to call home. That’s why we are spending £2 billion to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, including making £1 billion available so councils can give financial support for people to find a new home and move out of temporary accommodation.

“Temporary accommodation is an important way of making sure no family is without a roof over their head, but councils must ensure it is temporary and suitable for families, who have a right to appeal if it doesn’t meet their household’s needs.

“Through our Rough Sleeping Strategy, we will continue to work to end rough sleeping completely.”

Donate to Shelter’s Urgent Winter Appeal here.

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

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