Today, Friday 13 October, new figures released by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities show that homelessness has reached a record high. 298,430 households faced homelessness in England in 2022/23, up by 6.8% compared to the previous year. The number of households in temporary accommodation was recorded at 104,510, also the highest on record.
Rapidly rising rents and a lack of security means that there was a 27.4% increase in the number of households who faced homelessness due to a private rented tenancy coming to an end. Meanwhile there was a 30.5% increase in people assessed by the local authority as sleeping rough.
Responding to these figures, Emma Haddad, Chief Executive of St Mungo’s, said:
“Today sees yet more devastating evidence of how the lack of affordable housing is resulting in thousands of people unable to keep a roof over their heads and literally forcing people onto the streets.
“It doesn’t have to be this way. There are interventions that would prevent people getting to the brink of homelessness and reverse this homelessness crisis. Today I have written to the Chancellor, along with colleagues across the sector, imploring him once again to raise housing benefit so that it covers the bottom 30% of local rents, as per the Government’s own stated policy, rather than just 5% of rented accommodation as now. The human impact is clear, as is the benefit to the public purse: the freeze on housing benefit is feeding a growing temporary accommodation bill that cost at least £1.6b last year.”
First-person account from a London Outreach Worker at St Mungo’s
The number of people we’re seeing on the streets is increasing. We’re seeing more people because of section 21 notices and landlords putting rent up and a lot younger people who we’d never see before. There are too many people for the provisions that we have. We need more spaces in services. In some areas there can be hotspots of 20-30 people sleeping rough and day centres can see up to 100 people coming a day sometimes.
Often the people we’re seeing never would have traditionally used our services before. They’re people who have never rough slept and have gone to their local authorities but are still not being housed as their not high enough priority, so are slipping through the net.
People are also moving through services slower. It’s so hard to get people into private rented now because rent prices are so much higher and are over the local housing allowance most of the time. So, we’re really struggling to match people with affordable property, which means people are having to stay on the streets longer, which is really difficult.
Rough sleeping at any point is always going to be traumatic, living with that fear and feeling of becoming the ‘other’. But often the longer people are on the streets, the harder it can become to support them away. We’re seeing a lot younger people become homeless due to things like landlords raising their rent prices.
If you’re under 35 and haven’t lived in supported accommodation or been in care, for example, for three months. You’re not exempt from the local housing tax. So, whilst you’d be entitled to a room in a shared house, with the rising rent costs, it just isn’t enough.
The local housing allowance sometimes isn’t even covering the rents. And then if people are having to use a Universal Credit to cover that shortfall, it leaves them with nothing. Most people will get £320 a month, if you have to say take even 100 pounds out of that, it’s a significant amount.
Often people become trapped in a benefit cycle where it isn’t affordable for them to get a job. Most of our clients don’t want to remain on credit, they want to find employment but it’s becoming harder.
The effect of all of this is difficult. The focus of our team is doing assessments. If we meet someone tonight, we’ll be doing an assessment on the street, understanding how we can support them and what that action plan is to solve their homelessness. But often there’s not that immediate solution. So, you still have to walk away which is really tough.
It’s heartbreaking walking away from people and not having a safe place you can give them.
Compared to this time last year, this period feels much busier and the flow on the streets is faster. Whilst the move through services feels slower, as people are having to wait for longer term accommodation for longer.
We’re also seeing more making self-referrals and actively asking for that help themselves.
During the pandemic, rough sleeping was seen as a health emergency and eligibility wasn’t part of the equation of who was given housing because it was a life saving measure which was incredible. It really shone a light on what we can do with the right resources provided. But now we’ve moved away from that again and the options aren’t there. It’s not as straightforward as let’s get you inside and get you a good sleep which is frustrating.
We’re also seeing people who are in employment becoming homeless, because a lot of the work that’s available like hospitality, isn’t near affordable housing. So, when they get a job they can’t be anywhere near where they’re working and to travel in and out of work is expensive. So, there’s often lots of layers.