Britain could end homelessness within ten years

Broadcast embargo: 09.00, Monday 11 June 2018

Print embargo: 00.01, Monday 11 June 2018


Ground-breaking plan sets out exact government policies needed to end homelessness 

Britain could end homelessness within 10 years with the right measures in place, says a landmark report by the charity Crisis, backed by high-profile figures such as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dame Louise Casey, and international homelessness experts.  

Everybody In: How to end homelessness in Great Britain resets the current approach to homelessness and sets out the exact government policies needed to end it for good. It finds that everyone who is homeless could have a stable home within 10 years if the measures are adopted in full.

The plan comprises extensive new research, working with experts such as the Chartered Institute of Housing, Heriot-Watt University, National Housing Federation, and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC). It has also been endorsed by experts in the US, Canada, and Finland who are leading highly successful movements to end homelessness in their countries.

Crisis is calling on all political parties to commit to ending homelessness. It is also calling for the governments of England, Scotland and Wales to produce an action plan that, once delivered, will get everybody who is homeless into a safe and stable home within 10 years. 

There are currently 236,000 people across England, Scotland, and Wales who are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness: this includes people living on the streets, in cars and tents, in shelters, or in unsuitable temporary accommodation. An average of three homeless people have died every week on UK streets since last October, recent research from the Bureau for Investigative Journalism revealed, showing the increasing dangers of homelessness.  

The plan's policy proposals are tailored for the governments of England, Scotland, and Wales. Its findings include:

  • 100,500 social homes need to be built each year for the next 15 years to meet the needs of both homeless people and the wider cohort of people in Britain on low incomes – including those at risk of homelessness.
  • A national rollout of Housing First would benefit more than 18,000 homeless people, by providing homes that come with a package of specialised support.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, parts of Britain dramatically reduced rough sleeping - one of the most visible forms of homelessness. Parts of Scandinavia and North America have now virtually ended rough sleeping [see box-out below for more detail]. 

Drawing on evidence of what works, the plan also sets out the policies needed to support people once they are housed. This includes better rights and longer tenancies for private renters, and reforming housing benefits so they meet the true cost of private renting. 

Ending homelessness will also require hospitals, prisons, the care system, and other parts of the state to play a role, the research finds. These organisations should be legally required to help prevent people leaving their care from becoming homeless. The plan also proposes that job centres have homelessness specialists. 

PwC has estimated the costs and benefits of the most targeted policies in the plan. They found that, over the next decade, these policies would cost £9.9 billion and deliver benefits worth £26.4 billion. This means that for every £1 invested, an estimated benefit of £2.70 would be generated. 

These estimates cover the costs and benefits of solutions specifically related to homelessness, but not wider reforms that target broader low-income groups (such as house-building and certain welfare reforms). 

While these benefits are significant, the moral argument for ending homelessness is equally important. Rough sleepers are 17 times more likely to be victims of violence, previous research from Crisis has shown. 

Along with the newly commissioned research, the plan is the result of an 8-month consultation involving hundreds of frontline workers and people who have experienced homelessness.

Crisis is encouraging the public to get involved by emailing their MP, MSP or Assembly Member and asking them to call on their party leader to commit to ending homelessness.


Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: 

“For the first time ever, we have a comprehensive plan that shows exactly how we can address the root causes of homelessness and make it a thing of the past. Other parts of the world are taking huge strides towards ending it, and Britain can too. We must not become a society that simply accepts homelessness as 'a sad fact of life', because the good news is that we know it doesn’t have to be this way.

“It’s been inspiring to see the recent surge in public support and political will to tackle homelessness, including strong commitments from all three governments. Now is the time to build on those commitments. With the right measures in place, we can do what it takes to end homelessness and make sure that no one in Britain has to face it again.”

Rachelle, a Crisis client and a member of the charity’s Experts by Experience panel, which worked closely on the plan, said:

"I got involved in this plan because I really wanted to help shape change. It's been powerful to share my own experience of homelessness and come up with ideas about how to make things better. No one should be experiencing homelessness in this country. I really believe that if everyone plays their part, then we can do this.  

"People's perception of homelessness is often just people who are literally on the streets. But it's something much wider than that. A hostel isn't your home. Someone else's sofa isn't your home. When I became homeless, I ended up having to live in a hostel for almost a year.

"When you have nowhere to call home, it effects your mental health, your life overall. No one should have to go through that indignity. This Plan needs to succeed, I want to see it succeed." 

Crisis' Experts by Experience panel is made up of people who are or have been homeless. Rachelle, aged 37, was homeless in Coventry in 2013. 

Juha Kaakinen, CEO of Finland's Y-Foundation, which has been at the forefront of Finland's recent successes in virtually eradicating rough sleeping, said:

"Everybody In: How to end homelessness in Great Britain is quite an extraordinary paper. You can read it as a highly ambitious report on state-of-the-art of homelessness policy. But it is much more: a manifesto and a roadmap to a policy that eventually could end homelessness for good. After this no one can say that they don’t know what should be done to end homelessness."

Is it possible to end homelessness? 

Examples from Britain and around the world 

England: Between 1990 and 2006, two government initiatives had big successes with reducing rough sleeping. The Rough Sleepers Initiative ran 1990-1999 and rough sleeping in London fell by over 50% during its first two years. The Social Exclusion Unit, which succeeded and expanded on the initiative, cut rough sleeping by 68% across England in 1998-2002.

Finland: Finland has virtually ended rough sleeping and dramatically reduced other forms of homelessness. In 2008, Finland introduced Housing First, a scheme that quickly provides homeless people with a stable home and then offers them support services. In the 1980s, rough sleeping in Finland hit a high of 4,700 people. Today there is just one 52-bed temporary shelter in Helsinki.

Canada: Medicine Hat, a city in Alberta, announced in November 2015 that it had ended chronic homelessness. Like Finland, the town achieved this thanks to Housing First, which has also been adopted across Canada and in parts of the US.

Scotland: Scotland has cut rough sleeping by over 70% since 2003, after passing a law to gradually end the "priority need" system, under which only some homeless people are legally entitled to accommodation (single adults without children are typically not considered "priority need.") Priority need was fully abolished in 2012, but the increase in who is eligible for support has caused a rise in people put in temporary accommodation – Crisis and others are campaigning for a seven-day limit on stays in unsuitable temporary accommodation. In England and Wales, priority need tests are still carried out.





  1. The plan’s methodology 

Crisis' ground-breaking plan, Everybody In: How to end homelessness in Great Britain, is the result of a research programme and national policy consultation over the last 18 months. The full report can be accessed here from 00.01 on 11 June: www.crisis.org.uk/endhomelessness.  

Crisis co-commissioned new research with sector experts such as the Chartered Institute of Housing, National Housing Federation, and Homeless Link. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) estimated the economic costs of different solutions, as part of a cost-benefit analysis of the proposed policies. Professor Glen Bramley of Heriot-Watt University carried out a housing requirements study, examining Britain’s current and future housing needs. Crisis also carried out its own in-house research; reviewed existing evidence on solutions to homelessness; and commissioned research from experts such as Liz Davies, a leading barrister in homelessness law at Garden Court chambers, and Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, an academic expert on homelessness at Heriot Watt University.  

The policy consultation consisted of 85 events attended by more than 1,000 people, including senior civil servants, council representatives, frontline workers, homelessness charities, and people who have experienced homelessness.  

  1. Crisis' definition of ending homelessness

Crisis' definition of homelessness ended consists of five categories:

  • No one sleeping rough.
  • No one forced to live in transient or dangerous accommodation such as tents, squats and non-residential buildings.
  • No one living in emergency accommodation such as shelters and hostels without a plan for rapid rehousing into affordable, secure and decent accommodation.
  • No one homeless because of leaving a state institution such as prison or the care system.
  • Everyone at immediate risk of homelessness getting the help they need to prevent it happening.
  1. Numbers of homeless people in Britain statistic

There are currently 236,000 people across Britain who are defined as core homeless. This is taken from a study by Heriot-Watt University – Homelessness projections in Great Britain. This refers to the most acute forms of homelessness and covers people who are: rough sleeping; sleeping in tents, cars, or public transport; squatting; living in unsuitable temporary accommodation; living in hostels, night shelters, winter shelters, or refuges; and sofa-surfing on a short-term basis.  

  1. Social homes statistic  

This figure is taken from a forthcoming research report undertaken by Professor Glen Bramley at Heriot-Watt University, commissioned by National Housing Federation and Crisis. The findings are based on an analysis of affordability and need based on a large scale national survey (Understanding Society) combined with an economic model of the housing market. This model uses 112 housing market areas across Britain and 150 indicators including household demographics, economic and labour market trends, incomes and poverty, and rents and affordability. The model forecasts annual changes over a 30-year period and figures for key outcomes have been calculated particularly for the next 15 years. The model incorporates forecast figures for core and wider homelessness over this period (based on Bramley 2017).  

  1. Housing First statistic

Housing First is a scheme that is specifically designed for homeless people with the most complex needs. It provides not only accommodation, but wraparound support such as mental health services. It has an extremely strong track record of success.  

Crisis and Homeless Link commissioned Imogen Blood & Associates to undertake a study on implementing Housing First across England, Scotland and Wales. The research has estimated, using secondary data sources, the potential Housing First cohort in each country if the scheme were to be implemented nationally tomorrow - 18,376 is the low estimate for the whole of Britain. This includes the backlog of people currently in the system whose needs have been unmet for some time, plus those who are currently homeless with complex needs. Secondary sources available on request. 

  1. Costs and benefits statistics

Crisis commissioned PwC to estimate the costs and benefits of achieving its five key objectives for ending homelessness. The analysis covered the interventions needed to meet Crisis’ goal of ending homelessness over the next 23 years. This press release includes costs and benefits over a ten-year period, which have been drawn from the long-term costs and benefits projected over the full period of the analysis (i.e. 23 years). The approach is consistent with the HM Treasury Green Book principles on economic appraisals and evaluation, specifically the treatment of the counterfactual, the approach to estimating economic costs and benefits of interventions, and the use of discounting.

The analysis estimated that the total cost of the plan's solutions will be £19.3 billion between 2018 and 2041. It also estimated that these solutions will deliver benefits to the value of £53.9 billion over the same period (2018 to 2041). The estimates cover the costs and benefits of targeted solutions specifically related to homelessness, but not wider reforms that target broader low-income groups in the population (such as house-building and certain welfare reforms.) 

The key principles of the analysis include: 

  • Identifying how many households (or individual people) are expected to require support every year, based on Heriot-Watt’s homelessness projections for core and wider homelessness for 2018-2041
  • Estimating the economic costs and benefits of the interventions which are additional to those expected to occur under the current (and already planned) policies
  • Estimating an intervention’s overall economic costs using an average unit cost per household (or per person)
  • Estimating an intervention’s overall economic benefits using an average benefit per person supported

The report identifies four categories of potential economic benefits of ending homelessness:

  • Avoided costs to local authorities through reduced use of homelessness services (e.g. reduced need for spending on temporary accommodation and other housing and support-based services for homeless people funded by local authorities.
  • Avoided costs to the Exchequer through reduced use of other public services such as NHS and criminal justice services as previously homeless people are moved out of homelessness and, on average, are expected to use these services with a lower frequency.
  • Increased earnings from more people being able and willing to work.
  • Increased wellbeing as a result of homeless people obtaining secure housing.


Simon Trevethick
Senior Media Officer


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