Great Britain

At least 280,000 people homeless in England with tens of thousands more at risk, Shelter report reveals

At least 280,000 people are currently homeless in England, with tens of thousands more at risk of losing their accommodation, Shelter’s annual report reveals.

This marks an increase of several thousand since last year and 23,000 since the charity’s first report in 2016, with the analysis suggesting one in 200 people are now sleeping rough, or living in hostels and temporary accommodation.

While the report warned the true figures are likely far higher due to “hidden homelessness”, analysis of government data also revealed close to 220,000 people have faced the threat of losing their home in the past year.

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London came out worst in the report’s regional breakdown, with an average of one in 50 people suffering homelessness, rising to one in 24 in Newham and one in 29 in Kensington and Chelsea.

“Homelessness blights lives and leaves a lasting imprint of trauma, and yet 280,000 people in England are without a home this Christmas. And many are only days away from joining them,” said Shelter’s chief executive, Polly Neate.

“As well as those facing serious ill-health or even death sleeping rough on our streets this winter, there are thousands of families trapped in grotty emergency B&Bs, with no space for children to sit and eat, let alone play.

“This is the grim truth our new government must confront and do something radical to change.”

Sarah Martin and her 14-year-old son, Ishmael, from Brent in northwest London, spent a year living in “squalid” and cockroach-infested temporary accommodation after her mother died and they were evicted from the house “before [they] had even had time to grieve”.

The pair were forced to share a bathroom and kitchen with other tenants.

“People would stumble around the corridors wild-eyed on drink and drugs and one poor woman tried to set herself alight,” Ms Martin said. “It was completely terrifying.

“Ishmael’s cheeky smile vanished, replaced by a nervous frown. He had been getting really good grades at school but they plummeted.”

Ms Martin and her son finally moved out of the hostel and into a flat, but it is still “riddled with problems” and a constant leak that leaves the walls and carpets soaking wet.

Shelter recently intervened in Ms Martin and Ishmael’s case and the council agreed the flat was not suitable. They are now waiting to see if they will be moved, and Ms Martin is working full-time as a council’s housing officer.

The charity has used government data detailing the number of people owed “prevention duty” by councils to stop them from becoming homeless, revealing close to 220,000 people have been deemed at risk of losing their home.

Tuesday’s report also found that, outside the capital, rates of homelessness are “stark” in areas such as Luton, Birmingham and Brighton. 

The charity also revealed it received a call to its emergency hotline every 44 seconds on average in the past year, with its free webchat service being used nearly 26,000 times.

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Shelter is warning Boris Johnson’s government must take “urgent” action to address the “dire lack of social homes at the crux of this emergency, before the situation is likely to get worse”.

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said it was supporting councils to reduce the numbers of people in temporary accommodation.

He added: “(We’re) giving £1.2bn to tackle all types of homelessness. Everyone should have somewhere safe to live, and councils have a duty to provide accommodation to those who need it, including families with children.”

Shelter’s Ms Neate added: “Until the government acts to stem this crisis, the work of our frontline advisers remains critical. With the public’s support we will do everything we can to help people find a safe and stable place to live – no matter how long it takes.”  

Additional reporting by PA