A NEW report suggests that homelessness in England is much
greater than Government figures claim.
Official statistics suggest that 52,000 households were homeless
in England in 2013/14, but the survey Homelessness
Monitor, commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and
Crisis UK, the national charity for single homeless people, found
that about 280,000 people asked councils in England for help to
keep them off the streets. That is nine per cent higher than last
year, and a rise of more than a third since 2009/10.
The survey, which is part of a five-year investigation into the
problem, suggests that the discrepancy in the figures is a result
of local authorities' turning to informal ways of aiding people,
such as help to stay in a tenancy, and debt advice. It also points
to changes in benefit rules, which created severe hardship leading
to homelessness and a lack of affordable housing.
In the preface to the report, the chief executive of Crisis, Jon
Sparkes, and the chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation,
Julia Unwin, write: "The bottom line is that we can no longer rely
on these figures to show national trends. Clearly, the Government
need to collect better information from councils . . . Welfare cuts
and changes have left growing numbers of people struggling to keep
a roof over their heads, with more than half of councils fearing
worse is yet to come.
"Combined with a housing crisis that successive governments have
failed to tackle; welfare cuts and sanctions are taking a dreadful
toll on people's lives."
They call for all parties in the run-up to the General Election
to take the issue seriously. They conclude: "The problem is even
worse than we feared, and we need a firm commitment to tackle
Survey carried out on homelessness
A survey for the Salvation Army in south-west England has
disclosed a significant gap between public perception and the
reality of homelessness.
Online research by Ipsos MORI among 2119 adults found that
almost a quarter of respondents in the south-west thought that the
main cause of homelessness was alcohol or drug addiction, followed
by debt (14 per cent).
But the Salvation Army's own questioning of 314 residents of its
Lifehouse homeless centres found that the main cause was
relationship breakdown (43 per cent). Ten per cent of residents
attributed it to drug or alcohol addiction, and debt accounted for
six per cent.
The MORI poll also suggested that 82 per cent of people in the
south-west would take no heed of a homeless person they met in the
The deputy territorial director of homelessness services at the
Salvation Army, Major Howard Russell, said: "We find it quite
shocking that such a large proportion of the public polled would
simply walk on by, doing nothing for a person sleeping rough. It
isn't an issue that can be ignored, and we believe awareness needs
to be raised."