One in 200 Britons now homeless as crisis grows

Newly released figures show that 13,000 more people have been forced to sleep rough over past year

Homeless UK
 A homeless man begging on the Strand, London
(Image credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

The number of homeless people in Britain has risen by 4% to at least 320,000 in the past year - an increase of more than 1,000 each month, according to a new study by Shelter.

The housing charity reports that one in every 200 people in Britain are now either sleeping rough or in temporary accommodation such as hostels or B&Bs.

And these figures do not include the “hidden homeless”, a term that includes people sleeping on friends’ floors or in sheds, or living out of their car, The Guardian reports.

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Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “Due to the perfect storm of spiralling rents, welfare cuts and a total lack of social housing, record numbers of people are sleeping out in the streets or stuck in the cramped confines of a hostel room.

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

This issue is especially acute in London. A total of 170,000 people in the capital – equivalent to one in 52 - is classified as homeless. In the east London borough of Newham, which has the highest rates of homelessness in the country, one in 24 residents are without permanent accommodation.

Telli Afrik, who lives in a hostel in Waltham Forest with his wife and two children, described his family’s predicament to The Independent.

“Our current hostel is so cramped and everyone’s competing for space,” Afrik said. “My family all sleep in one room and we eat our meals on the floor because we don’t have a table. It’s just very tough.

“My family is at a breaking point.”

The Homelessness Reduction Act, which came into force in April, requires local councils to provide more help and resources to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. However, Shelter has warned that the new legislation’s “laudable aims to reduce homelessness will be undermined without improvements to wider housing and welfare policy”.

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