Homelessness numbers ‘a national outrage’

DCLG figures show alarming increases in the number of homeless households.

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Between 1 July and 30 September 2017 local authorities in England accepted 15,290 households as being statutorily homeless, up 6% from 14,390 on the previous quarter and up 2% from 14,930 on the same quarter of last year. The figure is up 62% from a low of 9,430 in Q4 2009

On 30 September 2017 the number of households in temporary accommodation was 79,190, up 6% from 74,750 at the same date last year, and up 65% on the low of 48,010 on 31 December 2010.

The number of households in temporary accommodation with shared facilities (bed and breakfast accommodation, hostels or women’s refuges) was 11,880. Of the households in shared facilities, there were 6,400 households living in bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation. Of the 6,400 households in B&B, 2,660 had dependent children or expected children.

Chartered Institute of Housing chief executive, Terrie Alafat CBE, said: “It is quite simply a national outrage that so many people are homeless in England in 2017. We must act now.

“Today’s figures show the number of households accepted as homeless has jumped by more than 60% since the low of 2009. That’s partly because of pressures on the housing market but also some of the welfare changes that have come into force in recent years.

Our research with the University of Sheffield has shown that the vast majority of councils and housing associations believe government welfare policy is hitting their efforts to tackle homelessness. And the real picture is likely to be much worse – for everyone who goes to their council for help there are likely to be many more ‘hidden homeless’ people sofa surfing and sleeping on public transport for example.

“There has been a frankly unacceptable rise in the number of households in temporary accommodation, which has soared by a staggering 65 per cent since the low of December 2010. That figure includes more than 2,500 families with children trapped in bed and breakfast accommodation, which is often very poor quality and highly unsuitable.

“History tells us that we can reduce or even eliminate homelessness but it does require a co-ordinated approach – that means government investment, funding for affordable housing and a concerted effort across the housing and homelessness sectors.”

Cllr Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s Housing spokesman, said: “Behind this rise in the number of homeless households are thousands of individual tragedies. Councils, on the front line of tackling homelessness, understand this, and are determined to do all they can to prevent people from losing their home in the first place.

“It’s clear the current situation is unsustainable for councils, and disruptive for families. On average over the last three years, councils are having to house the equivalent of an extra secondary school’s worth of homeless children in temporary accommodation every month.

“We must tackle our shortage of affordable homes by building more of them if we’re to truly get to grips with our national housing shortage. While the government’s indication that it will explore ways to enable councils to build more homes is encouraging, these new homes can’t appear overnight, and the demand is urgent.

“The government can help councils tackle homelessness, by adapting welfare reforms to ensure housing remains affordable for low-income families and allowing all councils, across the country, to borrow to build new homes as part of the upcoming Local Government Finance Settlement.”

Wera Hobhouse MP, Liberal Democrat local communities spokesperson, said: “This sharp rise in homelessness as we enter the harsh winter months should shame Theresa May.

“Families are being left out in the cold by this heartless Conservative government. “Young people are being particularly badly hit by the cruel decision to cut housing benefit for under-25s.

“The government must urgently boost funding for homelessness, reverse cuts to housing benefit for young people and build the social homes the country desperately needs.”

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