More than 200,000 households in England, will experience the worst forms of homelessness this Christmas, including sleeping on the streets.
That is the grim forecast outlined in analysis led by Heriot-Watt University on behalf of the national homelessness charity, Crisis.
The annual 'Core Homelessness Estimates and Projections' study, reveals that even before the Covid-19 outbreak, destitution was growing in scale and intensity.
Our concern now is that, with the significant economic and unemployment problems that are expected in the next couple of years, then unless these schemes are both continued and strengthened by additional supporting measures and funding, then core homelessness could rise sharply in the next year or so and remain at a higher level in the future.
It found that in the last seven years, homelessness rose, reaching a peak at the end of 2019 with more than 219,000 households affected.
This year saw a slight reduction, which Crisis attributes to new UK Government initiatives following the outbreak of Covid-19 such as increasing the use of emergency accommodation including hotels, to support people sleeping rough and in other insecure situations.
Professor Glen Bramley from Heriot-Watt University is the lead author of the study and one of Britain’s leading academics in housing and urban economics. He said: “These estimates are based on analysis of a range of data sources including several new or improved sources.
“Each component of the estimates is based on at least four distinct data sources. The data show that there has been a general upward trend over the period up to 2019. The special 'Everyone In' initiative responding to Covid-19 showed during 2020 that it was possible to reduce rough sleeping and some other forms of homelessness while at the same time protecting the health of those involved.
“Our concern now is that, with the significant economic and unemployment problems that are expected in the next couple of years, then unless these schemes are both continued and strengthened by additional supporting measures and funding, then core homelessness could rise sharply in the next year or so and remain at a higher level in the future."
Following the Chancellor’s warning that the economic emergency brought on by the pandemic has only just begun, and with unemployment expected to peak at 2.6 million next year, Crisis warns that the progress made in 2020 to tackle homelessness is at risk of being undone. The charity is now calling on the government to take a longer-term approach to tackle homelessness, starting with addressing the severe shortage of social housing and ensuring that housing benefit continues to cover the true cost of rents.
While rough sleeping remains the most visible form of homelessness, the research also reveals that 95 percent of homeless households in England are hidden from view; drifting from sofa to sofa or trapped in insecure, temporary accommodation.
Commenting on the research Jon Sparkes, Crisis Chief Executive, said: “Homelessness is dangerous and devastating, and yet this Christmas there will be thousands of people sleeping on strangers’ floors, freezing in flimsy tents or trapped in rundown B&Bs with nowhere else to go and no one to be with.
“It’s unquestionable that the emergency measures taken to support people sleeping rough into safe accommodation, and the introduction of a ban on evictions, had a significant impact and protected the lives of thousands. 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 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.
“While this Christmas will be different for all of us, Crisis will still be there for the people that need us - providing a safe place to stay, companionship, food and support – and hope for a future away from homelessness.”
The 'Core Homelessness Estimates and Projections' study is part of a longer term programme into homelessness funded by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Named 'The Homelessness Monitor', its aim is to provide an independent analysis of homelessness, taking into account the recent economic and policy developments across the UK.