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Rise in homelessness recorded

July 04 2011
Numbers up by nearly a quarter in one year, according to government figures


Homelessness in the UK has risen by 23 per cent in the past year, according to government figures. In the first quarter of 2011, 26,400 people appealed to local authorities as homeless compared to 21,410 during the same period the previous year. However, despite this increase, the number of people being accepted as homeless fell by two per cent. There are currently a range of ways to define homelessness, which may explain the confusion in the figures. To be legally defined as homeless, a person must either lack a secure place to live or be unable to stay in current accommodation. However, local authorities will prioritise cases and only allocate housing to those most in need, for example families with children.

In terms of rough sleepers, figures from Broadway, a London-based homelessness charity, show there has been an eight per cent increase in the past year. To resolve the issue, outreach teams are working harder than ever to help people into assisted housing. In the past 12 months, dedicated staff have moved 1,372 people into accommodation and helped a further 326 gain access to vital services.

“We know exactly the size of the task facing us if we want to reduce rough sleeping to as near to zero as possible by the end of 2012,” said chief executive of Broadway, Howard Sinclair. “We believe that as long as resources are used in the right way and we continue to work together towards this common aim then we can continue to make a positive and long-lasting difference in the lives of people who end up having to sleep rough in London.”

Meanwhile, homelessness charity Crisis has warned that government proposals to reform housing benefits are likely to exacerbate the problem. Garry Lemon, a spokesperson for the organisation, told The Pavement that the introduction of short-term tenancies would be particularly detrimental to those in social housing. “There will be an interaction between changes to the homelessness duty and the changes to tenure,” he explained. “At present, a vulnerable homeless single 30-year-old is entitled to a social home. Soon they could be discharged to a one-year tenancy in a shared house. We have been actively lobbying on the Localism Bill to challenge these changes.”

Lemon blames the recent surge in homelessness on the recession and rising unemployment. “Without jobs, people can’t pay rent and mortgages, and end up homeless,” he explained. “Unemployment also puts pressure on relationships and relationship breakdown is the leading cause of homelessness.”

At present the Mayor of London is maintaining his commitment to ending rough sleeping by the end of 2012, and we’ll wait to see whether the rise effects this and other government and local authority pledges across the UK.