A report by homeless charity Shelter has revealed 253,000 people in England are homeless and have been living in temporary accommodation during the pandemic.
Shelter’s Homeless and Forgotten report examines the lives blighted by the housing emergency and lack of social homes, which is leaving thousands stuck in unstable temporary accommodation with nowhere else to go.
Temporary accommodation provided by councils can range from a self-contained flat to an emergency B&B room with shared facilities.
One in six homeless households (17%) are currently placed into emergency B&Bs and hostels, where poor conditions and gross overcrowding are rife. The use of emergency B&Bs alone has increased by a staggering 371% over the last ten years.
Shelter interviewed Jenny, who was placed in temporary accommodation in South West London with her two young children (aged 1 and 3), for the report.
Jenny said: ‘It’s a complete nightmare. We don’t feel safe, it’s always noisy, you don’t know who you’re living next to. The police are always around – someone tried to break down our door once, which was terrifying. It’s so difficult to do simple things like your laundry.”
‘The kids sleep on the sofa. There’s barely any space for them to eat – let alone play. I can’t let them play in the garden because there are needles and broken glass.
‘Being so far from Jack’s nursery and having to wake up at 5am to get there makes things much harder. This is no place to bring up a family. I worry constantly about what impact this is having on them.’
The latest figures showing 115,000 more people are homeless and trapped in temporary accommodation than a decade ago, but Shelter argues the economic chaos caused by Covid-19 risks turbo-charging the crisis.
The charity’s analysis of government data shows the number of people in temporary accommodation jumped by 6,000 in the first three months after the pandemic struck.
However, the number of people experiencing homelessness is undoubtedly higher, as many people will be undocumented by councils because they are sleeping rough or sofa-surfing.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: ‘Over a quarter of a million people, half of them children, are homeless and stuck in temporary accommodation.
‘This should shame us all. With this deadly virus on the loose, 2020 has taught us the value of a safe home like never before. But too many are going without, because of the chronic lack of social homes.
‘Many people will spend Christmas in grim, dangerous places, cut off from loved ones and faced with a daily struggle to eat or keep clean.
‘As the country continues to reel from the financial shockwaves caused by the pandemic, our services will do all they can to support those battling homelessness.
‘This year has been unbelievably tough, but with the public’s generous support we will do our best to give hope and help to everyone who needs us.’
Responding to the report cllr David Renard, Local Government Association housing spokesperson, said:
‘It is a tragedy whenever anyone becomes homeless, and placements in temporary accommodation can present serious challenges for families – from parents’ employment and health to children’s ability to focus on school studies and form friendships.
‘It was good the government recognised the need to fund homelessness services in the Spending Review.
‘However, these worrying figures underline why it is also important that there is a shift towards long-term investment in homelessness prevention services.
‘With council housing waiting lists set to potentially nearly double as a result of COVID-19, we are calling for councils to be given powers to kickstart a post-pandemic building boom of 100,000 new social homes for rent each year, including reform of Right to Buy.’
In response to the findings, Shelter is urging the public to support its frontline advisers as they work tirelessly to help growing numbers of people to find, or keep hold of, a home.
To donate to Shelter’s urgent winter appeal and give hope to people facing homelessness, please visit www.shelter.org.uk/donate.
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