Study warns of rise in homelessness unless Government and councils act now

25 August 2017

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MORE people will be sleeping on the streets in the coming years unless there is a change in central-government policy and local-authority practice, new research suggests.

The study Homelessness Projections: Core homelessness in Great Britain by Professor Glen Bramley, of Heriot-Watt University, for the charity Crisis, predicts that homelessness will rise by more than a quarter over the next ten years. The number of rough-sleepers will rise by 76 per cent, it says, from 9100 to 16,000, and to 40,100 by 2041.

The report — based on panel surveys, statutory statistics, and academic studies — says that, at any one time across Britain in 2016, 160,000 households were experiencing “core homelessness”, comprising “sofa-surfing” (68,300), staying in hostels, shelters, and refuges (42,200), being placed in unsuitable temporary accommodation (19,300), rough sleeping, staying in a car or tent, and squatting. The scale of core homelessness had increased in Britain by 33 per cent since 2011, with much of the increase coming from the use of “unsuitable” temporary accommodation.

Poverty is “the most important driver of homelessness”, it says. The affordability and availability of housing is also a factor, as is the extent to which councils deploy prevention measures. In 2016, a parliamentary committee identified “significant variations” in the level of service offered to homeless applicants by councils. The Homelessness Reduction Bill, passed this year, will require local authorities in England to place more emphasis on the prevention of homelessness. The Government says that it is investing £550 million in tackling homelessness by 2020.

The Crisis report predicts that, if welfare cuts were cancelled, which would produce static poverty figures, homelessness could be reduced by 33 per cent by 2036. If all councils followed the example of those deploying the most extensive prevention policies, homelessness would fall by 27 per cent by 2026.

The chief executive of Crisis, Jon Sparkes, said: “This year Crisis marks its 50th anniversary, but that’s little cause for celebration. We still exist because homelessness still exists, and today’s report makes it only too clear that unless we take action as a society, the problem is only going to get worse with every year that passes.”

The executive director of the Church Urban Fund, Paul Hackwood, highlighted the work of churches in responding to homelessness, including the Together programme, which provides night shelters and emergency provision.

“What we need, however, as a society is an orientation towards the common good, so action needs to be taken to address the causes of homelessness, and to prevent these predictions from becoming a reality,” he said.

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