The scale of England’s homelessness crisis has been laid bare after new data released by the government reveals almost 100 households are being made homeless each day in England, reports Yahoo news.
The figures reveal more than 180,000 households have been pushed into homelessness since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The stark data shows that between April and June, 20,850 households were found to be homeless or at risk of homelessness by local councils. More than 16,000 households were placed in emergency accommodation – like hostels or B&Bs – which are known for their poor conditions and overcrowding.
According to housing charity Shelter, 8,250 households were owed a relief duty in the same three-month period, which works out at 91 households every day being tipped into homelessness. The numbers also include the first month after the ban on evictions was lifted at the end of May, and is likely to reflect the removal of restrictions on private-rented sector evictions. The ban was introduced at the beginning of the pandemic to protect renters from being made homeless after financial difficulties. On 31 May, the restrictions ended and bailiff enforcement evictions were allowed to resume.
Homeless charities and campaigners warned the government against the move and Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said it left many tenants on the edge. “If the government doesn’t act, the system will collapse under the weight of a growing evictions crisis after the final bailiff ban lifts,” she said. “The government’s ambition to end homelessness will be totally undermined if more people lose their homes in the year ahead. It must step in to help renters clear their COVID rent debts – before it’s too late.”
Some of the biggest increases in homelessness were reported among elderly people (over 75s), Asian people, and people with mental health difficulties. Neate expressed her dismay at the growing numbers of homelessness in wake of the new data, and described the chancellor’s budget as a missed opportunity. “Since the pandemic erupted, more than 180,000 households have been thrown into homelessness and a desperately uncertain future,” she said. “With 91 families becoming homeless every single day, the chancellor missed a vital opportunity to deal with the biggest bill people face – their rent.”
Neate added: “While the government’s benefits support for people in work will provide a vital lifeline for some, it won’t help everyone in need. The months ahead are going to be very hard with soaring food and energy prices on top of extortionate and rising rents. If struggling families are to stand a chance at recovery, the government has to build decent social homes – it is the only solution to homelessness that will last.”
Homeless charity Crisis has also expressed alarm about the new data. “These figures show the first signs of what we feared – once emergency measures were lifted, households began to feel the full force of the financial pressures of the pandemic and we’re now seeing a surge in people experiencing homelessness,” said Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs. “The UK government has announced welcome funding measures, through grants and the announcements in [the] budget to help families in work.”
He added: “We know that it is possible to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place – the most immediate move the UK government can make is to ensure the money is spent effectively – that includes unfreezing housing benefit – to ensure that no one is evicted because of the pandemic, and that more money is made available when it’s needed.”