Our privacy policy has changed.

View policy

Logo

More than 170,000 families and individuals across Britain are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness

23.12.2018 3089 XX

State of homelessness across Britain revealed, as Crisis opens its Christmas centres

  • New data show more than 170,000 families and individuals are stuck in worst forms of homelessness
  • Total includes at least 38,000 young adults under 25 and at least 4,200 people aged 65 and over

More than 170,000 families and individuals across Britain are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness, according to new figures released today. This includes people sleeping on our streets, sofa-surfing with strangers, living in hostels, and stuck in other dangerous situations.

The new research, commissioned by national homelessness charity Crisis and carried out by Heriot-Watt University, shows that this dire situation affects all age groups. There are at least 38,000 young adults under the age of 25 experiencing homelessness, with almost half of this group sofa-surfing. There are also at least 4,200 homeless people aged 65 or over. (Please see Notes to Editors for data and definitions.)

The total also includes over 20,000 households in England and Scotland who are stuck in unsuitable temporary accommodation such as B&Bs and nightly-paid hotels – a number that has doubled between 2012 and 2017, mainly driven by rises in England. In Wales, the number of households in this category has fallen but there has been a steep rise in rough sleeping.

While rough sleeping is the most visible form of homelessness, today’s new research shows that for every person on our streets there are also another twelve homeless families or individuals stuck in situations such as sofa-surfing or living in temporary accommodation.

Homelessness is devastating and dangerous. At least 554 people in the UK have died while homeless since October 2017, according to figures released this week by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Crisis is calling on Britain’s governments to urgently tackle the root causes of homelessness, which include a shortage of social housing, housing benefits that often do not cover even the cheapest private rents, and a lack of homelessness prevention schemes for people leaving state institutions such as the care system.

While these underlying causes can only be tackled by policy changes, there are also ways that members of the public can help immediately. If you see someone sleeping rough, contact Streetlink (in England & Wales), or the local council in Scotland, to connect that person with the homelessness services in their area. If you have immediate concerns about their welfare, call 999.

Members of the public can also help by raising vital funds for Crisis’ year-round services and its Christmas centres. The charity today opens its Christmas centres to an expected 4,500 homeless people who are in immediate need.

The centres, in cities including London, Edinburgh, Birmingham, and Newcastle, are run by more than 11,000 volunteers. They provide homeless guests with warmth, companionship, and three hot meals a day, as well as vital medical, housing, and other advisory services. The centres also introduce people to Crisis’ year-round support, helping them to leave homelessness behind for good.

 

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said:

“Christmas can be an incredibly difficult time for people who are homeless. While others are celebrating with family and friends, homeless people face a daily struggle just to stay safe and warm.

“This new research echoes what we see every day in our frontline work – that there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ homeless person, and that this crisis is affecting people who range from young care-leavers to pensioners. And, while rough sleeping is the most visible form of homelessness, for every person on our streets there are another twelve families or individuals experiencing other terrible situations like sofa-surfing and living in cramped B&Bs.

“That’s why we open our Christmas centres to thousands of people in need. We offer our guests somewhere safe to spend Christmas and we introduce them to our year-long services to help them leave homelessness behind. This is only possible due to our supporters and volunteers’ incredible generosity, and we hope the public will help us to keep doing this until all of Britain’s governments put in place the policies that will end homelessness for good.”

 

Professor Glen Bramley, the lead author of the research, said:

"In this research, we’ve painted a fuller picture of people across Britain who are currently experiencing the most acute forms of homelessness or living in short-term or unsuitable accommodation. It shows that these types of homelessness have increased overall across England, clearly showing the rising pressures of homelessness, whilst in Scotland and Wales levels have fluctuated depending on the type of homelessness. These figures present the estimates by drawing on and combining a range of sources.

“Accurately measuring these more extreme forms of homelessness is difficult. There is a critical opportunity now to transform the way we measure acute homelessness, and the living conditions and wellbeing of a range of vulnerable people in our communities.”

 

ENDS

=================================================================

 

Notes to editors:

  1. Research methodology
  • The report estimates that 170,800 households are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness, also known as “core homelessness”. Many of these households are single adults of working age, but there is a significant number of families and children within some of these groups. The research has calculated low, mid and high range estimates. In general, the central or ‘medium’ figure has been used as the best evidenced estimate for the element in question.

 

  • The age breakdowns have been calculated across different types of core homelessness using the following bandings: under 25, 25-34, 35-44, 45-64, 65 and over. The data sources used to estimate age breakdowns across the core homelessness are JRF’s Destitution survey, Scottish Household Survey, and the Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey.

 

  • A household is: “one person living alone, or a group of people (not necessarily related) living at the same address who share cooking facilities and share a living room or sitting room or dining area.” In the context of this study, the definition of 'one person who lives alone' has been extended to include people who are staying in hostels and B&B/hotels, sofa surfers as well as rough sleepers, who would not be counted as 'private households' but rather as part of the 'institutional population', or not at all, in the Census and household surveys.

 

The research defines different types of core homelessness as follows:

  • Rough sleeping
  • People sleeping in cars, tents and public transport
  • Squatting
  • Unsuitable non-residential accommodation e.g. ‘beds in sheds’
  • Hostel residents
  • Domestic abuse survivors in refuges
  • Sofa-surfing refers to households who are staying with others (who are not their parents) on a short-term/insecure basis, and who want to move and are overcrowded. Such people typically have little choice other than to live in that situation. This does not include students.
  • Unsuitable temporary accommodation refers to households applying to local authorities as homeless or at risk, and placed in bed and breakfast accommodation, houses of multiple occupation, or in accommodation that is away from their home locality

 

  1. Full data tables

Table 1: Core homeless households in Great Britain 2012 to 2017

Core H'less  - GB (totaled)

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

% change: 2012 to 2017

% change: 2016 to 2017

Rough Sleepers

6,200

7,250

7,250

9,150

10,250

12,300

98%

20%

Car, tent, public transport

5,900

6,900

6,950

8,850

9,950

11,950

103%

20%

Squat, non-res building

11,350

12,200

12,150

13,150

13,150

14,150

25%

8%

In Hostels, refuges, night/winter shelters

47,100

44,900

44,300

42,150

41,150

40,150

-15%

-2%

Unsuitable T A

10,700

13,350

15,350

17,500

19,500

20,850

95%

7%

Sofa-Surfers

70,450

70,300

72,800

70,350

71,350

71,400

1%

0%

Total Stock (snapshot)

151,600

153,850

158,700

161,150

167,350

170,800

13%

2%

 

Table 2: Core homeless households in England 2012 to 2017

Core Homelessness - England (rounded)

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

% change: 2012 to 2017

% change: 2016 to 2017

Rough Sleepers

5,000

6,000

6,000

8,000

9,000

11,000

120%

22%

Car, tent, p t

5,000

6,000

6,000

8,000

9,000

11,000

120%

22%

Squat, non-res bldlg

10,000

11,000

11,000

12,000

12,000

13,000

30%

8%

In Hostels etc

44,000

42,000

41,000

39,000

38,000

37,000

-16%

-3%

Unsuitable T A

8,000

11,000

13,000

15,000

17,000

18,000

125%

6%

Sofa-Surfers

60,000

61,000

64,000

62,000

63,000

63,000

5%

0%

Total Stock (snapshot)

132,000

136,000

141,000

144,000

150,000

153,000

16%

2%

 

Table 3: Core homeless households in Scotland 2012 to 2017

Core H'less  - Scotland (rounded)

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

% change: 2012 to 2017

% change: 2016 to 2017

Rough Sleepers

1,000

1,000

1,000

850

950

950

-5%

0%

Car, tent, p t

700

700

700

600

650

650

-7%

0%

Squat, non-res bld

1,050

950

900

900

900

900

-14%

0%

In Hostels etc

2,250

2,050

2,450

2,300

2,300

2,300

2%

0%

Unsuitable T A

2,300

2,100

2,050

2,250

2,300

2,650

15%

15%

Sofa-Surfers

6,250

5,500

5,050

5,150

5,100

5,150

-18%

1%

Total Stock (snapshot)

13,500

12,250

12,100

12,050

12,200

12,600

-7%

3%

 

Table 4: Core homelessness in Wales 2012 to 2017

Core H'less  - Wales (rounded)

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

% change: 2012 to 2017

% change: 2016 to 2017

Rough Sleepers

200

250

250

300

300

350

75%

17%

Car, tent, p t

200

200

250

250

300

300

50%

0%

Squat, non-res bld

300

250

250

250

250

250

-17%

0%

In Hostels etc

850

850

850

850

850

850

0%

0%

Unsuitable T A

400

250

300

250

200

200

-50%

0%

Sofa-Surfers

4,200

3,800

3,750

3,200

3,250

3,250

-23%

0%

Total Stock (snapshot)

6,100

5,600

5,600

5,100

5,150

5,200

-15%

1%

 

  1. Data on the number of people dying while homeless

You can read more about the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s findings here. The Office of National Statistics will also release data that covers England and Wales on 20 December.

 

  1. What can the public do to help?

Crisis is asking the public to donate £28.18 to reserve a place for a homeless person at one of its centres this Christmas. Crisis’ Christmas centres – run by Crisis staff and 11,000 volunteers – run 22nd-29th December across London, Edinburgh, Newcastle, and Birmingham.

 

Importantly, we also advise: If you see someone sleeping rough, you should contact Streetlink (in England & Wales), or the local council in Scotland, to connect that person with the homelessness services in their area. If you have immediate concerns about their welfare, you should call 999. There are also things you can do depending on what you are comfortable with. Whether you give, or what you give, is of course a personal choice, but ideas include: 

  • Asking if there is anything they need. It could be a hot drink or food, or some spare change
  • Providing blankets or warm clothing, like hats, scarfs, socks or gloves
  • Simply stopping for a conversation or offering a kind word – homelessness can be an incredibly isolating experience

 

  1. About Crisis at Christmas:

At Crisis we know it’s possible to end homelessness, so this year we launched a plan to end it for good. But while there are still people in our society without a home, we’ll open our Christmas centres to provide food, warmth, vital services and the first steps out of homelessness. Crisis at Christmas is just the beginning of helping people out of homelessness. It’s a huge volunteer effort, with 15 centres across Britain offering homeless people food, clothing, advice and support with health, housing, employment and benefits. For many, Crisis at Christmas offers a chance to relax, regain confidence and plan for the future in a supportive environment, away from the immediate hardships of homelessness.

In 2017, 4,194 guests came to Crisis at Christmas in London, Birmingham, Coventry, Edinburgh and Newcastle combined.

But we don’t stop there. At our Christmas centres, we introduce people to our year-round training, education and support with housing, employment and health. This long-term support helps people to rebuild their lives and leave homelessness behind for good. 

 

  1. About Crisis 

Crisis is the national charity for homeless people. We help people directly out of homelessness, and campaign for the social changes needed to solve it altogether. We know that together we can end homelessness.