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September 29, 2024

Rising levels of homelessness will require a long-term response

Rising levels of homelessness will require a long-term response

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has published both its annual rough sleeping snapshot and its quarterly figures for numbers of families in Temporary Accommodation. Both these measures of very different forms of homelessness are now at high or record levels - illustrating the scale of the challenge ahead. 

by Matt Wilkins and Tim Gray

It is important to note that this crisis has been building over many years. So substantial is the scale of the challenge demonstrated in these statistics that there are clearly no quick fixes. Solutions require strategic thinking that is long term and sensitive to their potential impact on the financial positions of local authorities. 

These figures will, of course, attract significant negative attention.  And there are good reasons for this: after all, Temporary Accommodation may not be suited to people’s needs and could be of poor quality. It can also be expensive - and increasingly appears to pose a risk to the financial sustainability of many local authorities. 

Nevertheless, before delving into the new headline figures, it is important to remember that Temporary Accommodation represents a vital, legally-enshrined safety net. This contrasts with many other countries, where without this safety net people - including families with children - experiencing homelessness can find themselves either sleeping rough or in other unsuitable or dangerous environments. It is one of our central strategies for preventing homelessness. This is why it is essential that it be used as effectively, and cost-effectively, as possible. 

In both sets of statistics, a number of key points are worth drawing attention to.

Rough Sleeping 

  • The number of people estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in Autumn 2023 rose by 27% since 2022, to reach 3,898
  • Although this is still 18% lower than the peak in 2017, the number of those rough sleeping has more than doubled since 2010, rising by 120%.
  • In London the number of people estimated to be sleeping rough rose by 32% from 858 in 2022 to 1,132 in 2023.      
  • This is the second consecutive substantial annual rise in rough sleeping, with the total rising by 60% since 2021, the low point reached during the Covid-19 pandemic and as a result of the government’s Everyone In programme.
  • The highest percentage increases in rough sleeping in the year 2022-23 were in Yorkshire and the Humber with a 59% increase, the North West with a 46% increase, and the North East with a 46% increase over the year.
  • By contrast the number of people sleeping rough rose by just 2% in the West Midlands
  • The increase in rough sleeping was concentrated in a relatively small number of areas, with 20 local authorities (7% of all areas) accounting for over 50% of the total increase.
  • The largest numerical increases in rough sleeping during the year were in Camden, Ealing and Hull.        

For a highly readable description of how rough sleepers are counted across the country, please check out this highly readable blog by The Centre for Homelessness Impact’s Director of Evidence and Data, Guillermo Rodriguez-Guzman: 

Temporary Accommodation 

Taken together, the latest data on the number of households in Temporary Accommodation in England highlight yet again that local authorities are increasingly running out of options for providing people experiencing homelessness with accommodation, causing them to increasingly place people in B&Bs - accommodation which costs the most and can be of poor quality and safety.

Some key points to note:

- Temporary accommodation numbers are at another all time high at 109,000 households, up 10% from the same quarter in 2022, with 69,680 of those families with children, 64% of all the households in temporary accommodation. 142,490 children were living in TA -  up 14% from a year ago.

- The number of households in Bed & Breakfast hotels was also at the highest level ever recorded with 14,880 households, up 30% in one year.

- There are 4,680 families with children in Bed & Breakfasts - up 4.5% in one quarter and 65% since the same period in 2022.

- The greatest percentage increase was for families with children living in B&B for over 6 weeks at 2,680  households. This had increased by almost 7% in the last quarter and 121% in the past year. It's worth remembering that this is against the law.

- The impact of the private rented sector on homelessness continues. The biggest cause of homelessness for those owed a prevention duty was the end of an assured shorthold tenancy with 14,340 households threatened with homelessness because of this - 40% of the total.

With challenges such as rising street homelessness and record levels of families staying in Temporary Accommodation there are no magic bullets or short term solutions. Reversing these trends will require sustained attention at system level over many years.

About the authors: 

Matt Wilkins is Head of Value for Money at CHI.

Tim Gray is a research associate for CHI.

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