The homelessness crisis must galvanise action from the future government

Emma Haddad, CEO of St Mungo’s

The homelessness crisis must galvanise action from the future government. Reversing the recent and significant growth in homelessness will not be easy, but it is not impossible. Here are St Mungo’s suggested priorities for the next government to end homelessness and support people to rebuild their lives.

We are, without a doubt, in a homelessness and rough sleeping crisis. Numbers for both are at all-time highs, with close to 4,000 people sleeping on the streets every night, and almost 80,000 households experiencing homelessness or at risk of it. Currently, our outreach teams are struggling to respond to the increasing number of people on the streets and our hostels are at capacity. There are not enough affordable or appropriate homes, making moving on from the streets more challenging than ever.

St Mungo’s is here to end homelessness, but we cannot do it alone. We want to work constructively with whoever forms the next government to bring about fundamental change to a system that is failing. The situation is directly linked to political choices. We see the fall-out every day. People who have no choice but to sleep rough, people in work who cannot afford their rent, people who are fighting to rebuild their lives. It does not have to be like this. There are a number of different political choices that can be made after 4 July that can turn the tide on this crisis.  

We are asking the next government to focus on four areas: emergency support, prevention, recovery, and a long-term plan to ensure there is sufficient, appropriate and affordable housing for people to live in. It is complex, but far from impossible. 


First, we need to protect essential funding for homelessness support. 

We need to ensure that the current funding through the Rough Sleeping Initiative (RSI) and wider local authority funding is continued and expanded, so there is sufficient emergency accommodation and support available to help the growing numbers of people on the streets.  

Thousands of people rely on services supported by this critical funding and, despite skyrocketing demand, RSI funding is due to end in April 2025. If this funding is not extended, about a third of the projects that St Mungo’s delivers with local authorities may not be able to run. This funding must also be expanded, so that we can provide services that match the rapidly increasing demand and escalating running costs.


Second, we need to take steps to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place.  

People living in the private rented sector are particularly vulnerable to homelessness. Recent government data shows that the private rented sector is increasingly unstable, with nearly 45% of households at risk of homelessness between October and December 2023 being in private rented accommodation. Despite being in the manifesto for the last government, progress was not made to pass the Renters’ Reform Bill. Urgent action is needed to protect renters from homelessness through comprehensive changes to current legislation. 

We also know that many people sleeping on the streets for the first time are coming from government institutions. From asylum accommodation leavers to people discharged from hospital or released from prison, we know that things can be done to ensure no one leaves these institutions without having somewhere safe to stay.   

The sharpest increase in homelessness from an institutional setting last year was from Home Office accommodation. Despite some positive changes, between July and December 2023 the number of people leaving asylum support accommodation and sleeping rough soared by an astounding 965.91%.  


Third, there must be recognition of the complexities of homelessness and rough sleeping, and significant investment in recovery.  

People sleeping rough experience some of the most severe health inequalities and are one of the most disadvantaged groups in our communities. We need to ensure that the health system is equipped to support people who have experienced homelessness.  One such measure is ensuring that Integrated Care Boards have a dedicated focus on eliminating the health inequalities that people like our clients face. 

We need to reform the welfare system to remove barriers and disincentives to work. Almost two thirds of our clients in supported housing want to work, but many are reluctant because they know working will negatively impact their benefits.. This means that even when working more hours, their finances could fall off a cliff edge and put their housing at risk.  The next government must also remove restrictions to full housing benefit entitlements under Local Housing Allowance rates, to help people into housing.  


Finally, we need more affordable and appropriate housing.  

All too often, even when we can provide people with emergency support and have worked with them to prepare for independent living, we cannot find them the right home.  There simply isn’t the housing supply available. We need a long-term plan for more permanent housing. That means 90,000 new social homes per year, as well as supported housing and affordable private rented housing. We need a credible plan that shows how, over time, the new government will build capacity into the system which is appropriate to the needs and financial situations of all people experiencing homelessness. 

The trauma of homelessness devastates too many lives. It should not exist in the twenty-first century. However, it can be prevented by targeting the causes, intervening early, and investing in the right approaches.

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