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Expert analysis from the Institute of Social Policy, Housing and Equalities Research has revealed that nearly 160,000 households, estimated to include just under 250,000 people, are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness across Britain. Rough sleeping is forecast to rise by 76 per cent in the next decade unless the governments in Westminster, Scotland and Wales take long-term action to tackle it.

We want to work with policymakers to design the long-term preventative interventions that acknowledge that homelessness is predictable but is far from inevitable in nature.

Professor Glen Bramley

The analysis, led by Professor Glen Bramley for Crisis, provides the most complete picture to-date of the worst forms of homelessness, including rough sleeping and sofa surfing, as well as 25-year forecasts for each category across England, Wales and Scotland.

Launched as part of Crisis's 50th anniversary year and drawing on the most up-to-date sources available, the report estimates that in 2016, at any one time, the figures for Britain were:

  • 9,100 people sleeping rough
  • 68,300 households sofa surfing
  • 19,300 households living in unsuitable temporary accommodation
  • 37,200 households living in hostels
  • 26,000 households living in other circumstances, including:
  • 8,900 households sleeping in tents, cars or on public transport 
  • 12,100 households living in squats
  • 5,000 households in women's refuges or winter night shelters

Drawing on detailed economic modelling, the report warns that if current policies continue unchanged, the most acute forms of homelessness are likely to keep rising, with overall numbers estimated to increase by more than a quarter in the coming decade (26.5 per cent) and households in unsuitable temporary accommodation set to nearly double (93 per cent).

The analysis also looks at how different policies could make an impact on this projected rise. Based on the model, a 60 per cent increase in new housing could reduce levels of homelessness by 19 per cent by 2036, while increased prevention work could reduce levels by 34 per cent in the same period.

Professor Glen Bramley from Heriot-Watt University, said: “The report's stark findings demonstrate that tackling homelessness is not just about finding and creating accommodation for individuals and households but also about working with government, both national and devolved legislators, to create lasting solutions to prevent homelessness before it occurs.

"At Heriot-Watt University, we have done extensive research on the drivers, causes and background factors behind homelessness. For example, we want to dispel the media myth that we are all two or three pay cheques away from homelessness.  For some systematically disadvantaged groups, the probability of homelessness is so high that it comes close to being considered a ‘norm'. For other sections of the population, the probability of becoming homelessness is extremely slight because they are cushioned by many protective factors.

"Poverty, both in childhood and in adulthood, is very important, together with contemporary inequalities in the labour market, problems with welfare benefits,  problems of access and affordability in the housing market, as well as more complex issues around mental health, addictions and offending which affect some single homeless people.

“We want to work with policymakers to design the long-term preventative interventions that acknowledge that homelessness is predictable but is far from inevitable in nature.”

In response to the report's findings, Crisis is calling on the public to join its Everybody In campaign – a national movement for permanent change aimed at ending the worst forms of homelessness once and for all. 

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, 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. That means more people sleeping on our streets, in doorways or bus shelters, on the sofas of friends or family, or getting by in hostels and B&Bs. In order to tackle this, we need to first understand the scale of the problem.

“Regardless of what happens in people's lives, whatever difficulties they face or choices they make, no one should ever have to face homelessness. With the right support at the right time, it doesn't need to be inevitable. There are solutions, and we're determined to find them and make them a reality.

“Yet we can't do this alone, which is why we're calling on the public to back our Everybody In campaign and help us build a movement for change. Together we can find the answers, and make sure those in power listen to them.

"We warmly welcome the Government's pledge to tackle rough sleeping and other forms of homelessness. Now's the time for action and long term planning to end homelessness for good."

Today's report is the first of two parts, with the second - due for publication in the Autumn - to examine ‘wider homelessness', including people at risk of homelessness or those who have already experienced it, such as households that have been served an eviction notice and those in other forms of temporary accommodation.