A homeless person sleeps rough near Windsor Castle, Berkshire
More than 200,000 households in England will be homeless this Christmas, new research from Crisis revealed today.
Those affected will be forced to sleep on the streets, hunker down in sheds and garages, or stay in unstable situations such as in B&Bs or on sofas, the annual study said.
Homelessness has been rising over the last five years, reaching a peak just before the Covid-19 pandemic when the number of homeless households grew by nearly 12,000 between 2018 and the end of 2019.
The fact that so many people will be without a home this Christmas “shows how grave England’s homelessness situation has become,” the charity warned.
The government’s Everyone In scheme, which housed about 15,000 people at the start of the pandemic, has not been formally repeated during the virus’s second wave.
One in 185 people are still without a home on any given night, Crisis found.
The charity called on the government to take a longer-term approach to tackling homelessness, starting with addressing the severe shortage of social housing and ensuring that housing benefit covers the true cost of rents.
Its research also found that areas placed at the heart of the government’s “levelling-up” agenda have experienced the biggest increases in homelessness over the last five years.
In northern England, where poverty, destitution and problems with poor housing are more acute, homelessness has risen by 20 per cent.
In London and south England, where homelessness is traditionally higher because of a lack of affordable housing, rates have slightly decreased by 8 per cent and 4 per cent respectively.
But Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes warned: “With the economic damage of the pandemic set to be long-lasting, and with millions expected to be out of work by early next year, there is a very real risk that homelessness will increase unless urgent action is taken.
“We cannot let the progress made this year unravel. We must look towards longer-term solutions, such as building the social homes we desperately need and ensuring that housing benefit continues to cover the true cost of rents, so that people can afford to keep their homes.”
An MHCLG spokesperson said: “We are pleased Crisis recognise the unprecedented action we have taken to support the most vulnerable people in our society during the pandemic, backed by over £700 million to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping this year alone.“Through our £15 million Protect Programme, and the £10 million Cold Weather Fund, we’ve stepped up our support for rough sleepers this winter and have also taken action to support people struggling to pay their rents.