Over a quarter of a million people are homeless and living in temporary accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic in England, the highest figure since 2006, Shelter has found.
The housing charity’s latest report found that around 253,620 homeless people in England are currently living in temporary accommodation, a figure which has risen by 2% (5,910) since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
The report, based on analysis of government data, revealed that one in six homeless households (17%) are currently living in emergency bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) and hostels.
Shelter has warned that the pandemic risks ‘turbo-charging’ the homelessness crisis, with the actual number of people affected likely to be even higher due to them 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.”
Shelter’s Homeless and Forgotten report finds that thousands of people are currently stuck in temporary accommodation with many feeling isolated and unsafe.
In 21 interviews with homeless people currently living in temporary accommodation, the charity found that over half of interviewees were staying in accommodation far from where they lived, while unsafe shared accommodation and inadequate cooking and cleaning facilities were common concerns.
Over two-thirds (68%) of all homeless people living in temporary accommodation were found to be living in London – equating to 1 in every 52 people in the capital – with Newham, Haringey and Kensington and Chelsea the boroughs worst affected.
Luton has the highest rate of people in temporary accommodation outside London (1 in 55), followed by Brighton and Hove (1 in 78), Manchester (1 in 93) and Birmingham (1 in 94).
Cllr David Renard, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesperson, commented: “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.”
The LGA has called for councils to be given powers to build 100,000 new social rented homes a year, including reform of Right to Buy, with council housing waiting lists potentially set to nearly double due to COVID-19.