Sleeping in a car at night is what most of us expect to have to do in order to keep a roof over our heads. Yet this is how John* coped after being thrown out of his flat by his landlord. John approached his local council for help after his landlord changed the locks to his home.
John was working, yet his low earnings wouldn’t allow him to find any affordable housing in the area. This time, the council was able to find him temporary accommodation, but he was only allowed to stay briefly while he searched for a new home within his budget.
At Shelter, we hear many stories like John’s – where people who lose their home are forced to go to even more extreme measures in order to avoid sleeping on the streets. It is not uncommon for whole families to live in one room. Households live out of boxes and suitcases because it’s never clear when the next move is. Mums and dads losing their jobs because travelling to work – often on insecure contracts – is too expensive.
The situation is nothing short of a crisis. Our new figures show there are more than 300,000 people recorded as homeless in Britain today – that’s more than the entire population of Newcastle. This count is a combination of official rough-sleeping, temporary accommodation and social services figures, but does not include ‘hidden homelessness’ such as staying with friends and sofa surfing – which is a far higher number than the rough sleepers you might see while walking the streets.
Our figures show the number of homeless people in Britain has risen by 13,000 in a year. What are the causes of this increase? Our research shows that homelessness has a strong relationship with housing affordability. Successive governments’ failure to build enough homes has created a housing shortage, which has led to rents increasing. And multiple cuts to benefits have made it more difficult for low-income tenants to pay these high rent payments, even if they’re working, putting them at risk of homelessness.
The next steps
The government says it wants to make sure anyone facing the threat of homelessness gets the support they need. That’s why we are asking it to unfreeze the disastrous four-year freeze on housing benefit for private renters in the Autumn Budget.
People like John need our help now. Every day our advisers see people who are struggling to cope. Sometimes we give advice over the phone or face to face. Shelter might connect people to the support they need or help them find accommodation. And often we seek to challenge evictions or challenge negative decision by local authorities.
But we can only continue to do this with the support of the public. That’s why we’re calling on you to support our urgent appeal.
- Visit www.shelter.org.uk or text SHELTER to 70080 to donate £3. With your help, we can make sure no one has to face homelessness on their own.
* Name changed to protect identity