30 Nov 2012

Dramatic’ rise in people at risk from homelessness

Housing charity Shelter reports an 92 per cent rise in families with children seeking advice on how to avoid homelessness.

'Dramatic' rise in people at risk from homelessness (Getty)

New figures released by the charity show that the number of people its helpline has assisted who are either homeless, or face losing their home, has risen by 80 per cent in the last three years.

The Shelter helpline is an all-year-round line staffed by more than 50 specialists. The number of families with children at risk of homelessness assisted by the helpline has increased by 92 per cent over the same period.

Over the past year, the charity’s website has also seen a 17 per cent surge in visits to pages providing homelessness advice, compared to just a three per cent increase the year before.

The findings come after Shelter’s Christmas appeal warned that 75,000 children in Britain will wake up homeless this festive period, living in temporary accommodation such as bed and breakfasts or hostels rather than a permanent home.

Campbell Robb, the charity’s chief executive, said: “These figures are a shocking reminder of the daily battle so many families are facing just to keep a roof over their head.

“Through our helpline Shelter offers vital help to people who have hit rock bottom and have nowhere else to turn. Our advisers give them the advice and support they need to get back on their feet.

“With demand for our services rising by the day, the support of partners is vital in making sure we can reach more families who need our help.”

Measuring homelessness

Homelessness can be defined and measured in different ways, but there are some indications that the problem may be on the rise in the UK.

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Under the Housing Act 1996, local councils have a legal duty to house certain groups of people who have lost their homes, like families with children, pregnant women and teenagers.

The number of households found to be unintentionally homeless and in priority need rose by 9 per cent compared to the same quarter in 2011.

The government’s official homelessness statistics show that 51,640 households were in temporary accommodation on 30 June 2012, 7 per cent higher than at the same date in 2011

Although most people counted as “homeless” in these measures have a roof over their heads, there is some evidence that the numbers of people sleeping rough on the streets may be rising too.

The charity Broadway counted 5,667 rough sleepers on the streets of London in 2011/12, a 43 per cent increase on the last financial year.

Charities like Shelter and Crisis also warn about rising numbers of “hidden homeless” – people who are living in such overcrowded, cramped conditions that they effectively do not have a decent home.