Housing

‘It’s a humanitarian crisis’: Homeless families in temporary accommodation highest since records began

Homelessness has hit record highs in England with councils spending an eye-watering £1.7bn a year keeping up with the demand for temporary accommodation

Martin has faced homelessness and lived in temporary accommodation

Grappling with mental health challenges, Martin has been in and out of temporary accommodation for several years, and has experienced street homelessness on and off. He’d like to start his own jet-washing business and help people who are in a similar situation by providing them with work. Image: Jeff Hubbard/PA Wire

The number of homeless households living in temporary accommodation in England has continued to soar as new government figures reveal record numbers of families have nowhere permanent to live.

A total of 104,510 households were living in temporary homes such as B&Bs and hotel rooms as of March 2023, representing a 10% rise in the space of a year. That figure included just under 65,000 households with children, also up a tenth since 2022.

Overall, 298,430 households in England needed support from local authorities with homelessness, rising 6.8% in a year and moving 3% above levels seen before the pandemic in 2019-20.

Balbir Kaur Chatrik, director of policy and communications at Centrepoint, said: “Councils could and should be doing better, starting by living up to the spirit and guidance set out by the Homelessness Reduction Act in terms of preventing and relieving homelessness for everyone approaching them for support.  

“That said it’s hard to blame councils for this when the root cause is a lack of resources and affordable housing options – things not controlled by town halls but by central government.  

“It’s clear the government’s approach is not working – not only are they overseeing surging levels of homelessness, they also don’t seem to have a tangible plan to tackle the housing crisis or prevent people becoming homeless in the first place.” 

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The news comes after statistics released on Thursday (12 October) showed that councils spent £1.7 billion funding temporary accommodation for homeless households in England between April 2022 and March 2023 – underlining the costly “humanitarian crisis” of rising homelessness.

That figure represents a 9% increase in spending in just one year and a 62% rise over the last five years.

One third of the total – around £565m – was spent on emergency B&Bs and hostels, which are often considered the worst accommodation for families with children to live in.

John Glenton, executive director of social housing provider Riverside Care and Support, said: “The number of people living in temporary accommodation or facing homelessness is becoming a growing humanitarian crisis in England, particularly for families living together in single room B&Bs.

“However, we now have a government which says it is determined to take long-term decisions for a brighter future. We want the government to apply this logic of long-term decision making to the housing and homelessness crisis we now face.

“We believe there is a clear need for the government to commit to delivering more than 90,000 new homes a year for social rent and to ring-fence and increase long-term revenue funding for supported housing for people affected by homelessness.”

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Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said the spending on temporary accommodation was “outrageous and illogical”.

She added: “The housing emergency has a stranglehold on this country and for the government to ignore it is criminal. With homelessness at record highs and families trapped in temporary accommodation for years, the alarm bells are screaming.  

“Grotty hostels and crowded B&Bs are not the kind of places children should be forced to grow up in, but the catastrophic failure to build enough genuinely affordable social homes is depriving them of a safe and settled home.  

“Parents who are homeless spend sleepless nights worrying if their children will ever have a home. The government could bring this nightmare to an end by building the social housing we are sorely lacking, and by immediately unfreezing housing benefit so that people can afford to pay private rents in the meantime.”  

Emma Haddad, the chief executive of St Mungo’s, said she had written to chancellor Jeremy Hunt pleading with him to raise local housing allowance rates.

Haddad said: “It doesn’t have to be this way. There are interventions that would prevent people getting to the brink of homelessness and reverse this homelessness crisis.”

The Big Issue has launched the End Housing Insecurity Now campaign to urge Rishi Sunak to protect low-income renters from homelessness.

The government figures show 140,790 households need council support to prevent homelessness in 2022-23 and the most common reason was the end of a private tenancy. A total of 31,320 households needed local authorities to step in, making up half of the households with children facing homelessness.

The 4.8% year-on-year increase in households owed a prevention duty was driven by a 22% surge in the number of households threatened with homelessness due to the end of an assured shorthold tenancy. There was also a 23.5% rise in households that needed support after landlords opted to sell or re-let a property.

There was also a 164% annual increase in the number of households facing homelessness after a rent increase, going from 450 to 170 households.

There was also a 23% increase in people at risk of homelessness due to a no-fault eviction, including a 48% rise in London. The Big Issue’s campaign is urging ministers to bring the long-delayed Renters Reform Bill into law to deliver on a promise to scrap them.

We’re also calling on the prime minister to make sure everyone can afford to stay in their homes and pay for the essentials by:

  • Unfreezing Local Housing Allowance rates
  • Increasing Universal Credit to £120 a week for a single adult and £200 for a couple

Will you add your voice to our call and sign the petition?

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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