The extent of homelessness across England is a national crisis. It is appalling that at any one time there are as many as 9,100 people sleeping rough on our streets. More than 78,000 households, including over 120,000 children, are homeless and housed in temporary accommodation, which can often be of a very poor standard. In addition there are ‘hidden homeless’ people who are housed by family and friends in shifting circumstances, but not captured as part of the official figures. Homelessness can be a devastating blight on the lives of those who experience it: the average rough sleeper dies before the age of 50, and children in long term temporary accommodation miss far more schooling than their peers.
The homelessness crisis has been growing for some time: since 2010 the number of households in temporary accommodation, for example, has increased by more than 60%, and since March 2011 the number of people who sleep rough has risen by 134%. The Department for Communities and Local Government’s (the Department) attitude to reducing homelessness has been unacceptably complacent. The limited action that it has taken has lacked the urgency that is so badly needed and its “light touch” approach to working with the local authorities tackling homelessness has clearly failed.
The Department is placing great reliance on the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 to provide the solution to homelessness. While this new legislation will no doubt help, it cannot be successful unless it is matched by a renewed focus across government on tackling the twin issues of both the supply and affordability of decent housing, which underlie the causes of homelessness.
18 December 2017