More than 24,000 people in Britain will spend the festive period sleeping rough or in cars, trains, buses or tents, according to new estimates that throw light on the scale of so-called “hidden” homelessness.
Research by the charity Crisis suggests 12,300 people are sleeping rough on the streets – the official figure is 4,751 – while a further 12,000 will spend the night in tents, cars, sheds, bins or night buses.
The figures suggest formal estimates of rough sleeping fail to capture the true scale of the problem. The Crisis figures, calculated by specialist researchers at Heriot-Watt University, suggest the number of rough sleepers in Britain has risen by 98% since 2010, and the number in tents and buses has increased by 103%.
The rough sleeping increases are more pronounced in England, at 120%. In Wales, rough sleeping is estimated to have increased by 75% over the period.
The chief executive of Crisis, Jon Sparkes, said: “Christmas should be a time of joy, but for thousands of people sleeping rough, in tents or on public transport it will be anything but. While most of the country will be celebrating and enjoying a family meal, those who are homeless will face a struggle just to stay safe and escape the cold. This situation simply cannot continue."
On Thursday official figures showed that the number of homeless households in England living in insecure accommodation provided by their local council had risen again, with more than 120,000 children in temporary homes including bed and breakfast rooms and hostels.
The figures show 82,310 households were in temporary accommodation at the end of June 2018, up 5% on the previous year, and an increase of 71% since December 2010. More than 2,500 families were put up in bed and breakfasts, and 3,740 in hostels and refuges.
Greg Beales, a campaign director at Shelter, said: “The fact that more than 123,000 children in England will be forced to wake up homeless this Christmas is a tragedy. A cramped room in an emergency B&B or hostel is no place for a child to live.”
The Chartered Institute of Housing’s chief executive, Terrie Alafat, said: “These figures reveal the stark reality of the homelessness crisis we are facing in this country – the fact that more than 120,000 children were living in temporary accommodation in June 2018 is quite simply a national disgrace.”
The increase in numbers in temporary accommodation in recent years are driven by rising rents and cuts to housing benefits, according to the National Audit Office.
The Local Government Association said: “Many councils are struggling to cope with rising homelessness and to find suitable accommodation for those in need. The increasing use of temporary accommodation is not only financially unsustainable for councils but is hugely disruptive for those families placed in such accommodation.”