320,000 people homeless in UK, claims housing charity

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The number of homeless people in Britain has shot up over the past year to 320,000, a new study from the housing charity Shelter claims.

This represents a rise of 13,000 – or four per cent – on the previous year, with an estimated 36 people becoming homeless daily across the country.

Shelter says its figures include only those people who are in hostels or known to local authorities and are a ‘conservative estimate’ as the actual level is hard to measure.

The problem is worst in London but is growing rapidly elsewhere, particularly in Yorkshire, Humberside, the Midlands and north-west England.

The figure of 320,000 was arrived at by analysing official figures for people in temporary accommodation, those sleeping on the streets and in hostels.

These were adjusted to avoid counting people twice and show that an extra 25,000 people have become homeless since Shelter carried out its first analysis in 2016.

In Scotland they only include those in temporary accommodation and in Wales they cover people in temporary accommodation and recorded rough sleepers.

Shelter says the figures could be higher as many people are ‘hidden homeless’ who stay off the radar of the authorities for a number of reasons,

The charity’s chief executive Polly Neate said they demonstrate that homelessness is having a ‘devastating’ impact on people’s lives across the country.

She added that because of a ‘perfect storm’ of rising rents, welfare cuts and a dearth of social housing, record numbers of people are sleeping on the streets or in cramped hostels.

“We desperately need action now to change tomorrow for the hundreds of thousands whose lives will be blighted by homelessness this winter,” she said.

The charity previously published research which showed that low housing benefit payments meant many people made homeless could not cover the rent for somewhere new.

The government says it is making £1.2 billion available to tackle homelessness with a range of measures.

Communities secretary James Brokenshire said a new law forced local councils to do more to prevent homelessness.

He said the government was also providing support to front-line workers helping to get people into accommodation and creating more affordable housing nationwide.


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