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Rough sleeping set to rise by three quarters in next decade as report reveals scale of acute homelessness in Britain

Nearly 160,000 households, estimated at just under a quarter of a million people (see notes), are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness across Britain, with rough sleeping forecast to rise by 76 per cent in the next decade unless the governments in Westminster, Scotland and Wales take long-term action to tackle it. 

This is according to new expert analysis conducted for Crisis by Heriot-Watt University providing the most complete picture to-date of the worst forms of homelessness, including rough sleeping and sofa surfing, as well as 25-year forecasts for each category across England, Wales and Scotland. 

Launched as part of Crisis’s 50th anniversary year and drawing on the most up-to-date sources available, the report estimates that at any one time in 2016 across Britain [breakdown also available by nation]:

  • 9,100 people were sleeping rough, compared to previous estimates placing rough sleeping at 4,134 households for England
  • 68,300 households* were sofa surfing
  • 19,300 households were living in unsuitable temporary accommodation
  • 37,200 households were living in hostels

  • 26,000 households were living in other circumstances, including:
    • 8,900 households sleeping in tents, cars or on public transport
    • 12,100 households living in squats
    • 5,000 households in women’s refuges or winter night shelters 

Drawing on detailed economic modelling, the report warns that if current policies continue unchanged, the most acute forms of homelessness are likely to keep rising, with overall numbers estimated to increase by more than a quarter in the coming decade (26.5 per cent) and households in unsuitable temporary accommodation set to nearly double (93 per cent) [see appendix for graph]. 

The analysis also looks at how different policies could make an impact on this projected rise. Based on the model, a 60 per cent increase in new housing could reduce levels of homelessness by 19 per cent by 2036, while increased prevention work could reduce levels by 34 per cent in the same period.

In response to the report’s findings, Crisis is calling on the public to join its Everybody In campaign – a national movement for permanent change aimed at ending the worst forms of homelessness once and for all.  

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “This year Crisis marks its 50th anniversary, but that’s little cause for celebration. We still exist because homelessness still exists, and today’s report makes it only too clear that unless we take action as a society, the problem is only going to get worse with every year that passes. That means more people sleeping on our streets, in doorways or bus shelters, on the sofas of friends or family, or getting by in hostels and B&Bs. In order to tackle this, we need to first understand the scale of the problem.

“Regardless of what happens in people’s lives, whatever difficulties they face or choices they make, no one should ever have to face homelessness. With the right support at the right time, it doesn’t need to be inevitable. There are solutions, and we’re determined to find them and make them a reality.

“Yet we can’t do this alone, which is why we’re calling on the public to back our Everybody In campaign and help us build a movement for change. Together we can find the answers, and make sure those in power listen to them.”

"We warmly welcome the Government's pledge to tackle rough sleeping and other forms of homelessness. Now's the time for action and long term planning to end homelessness for good."

Everybody In aims to bring people together to change opinions, raise awareness and ultimately end homelessness for good, and includes a library of first-hand accounts showing the reality of homelessness in Britain.

Alongside this, Crisis will be working towards a national plan to end the worst forms of homelessness once and for all, bringing together everything needed to make this happen, including consultations in all three nations and a large scale programme of research.

Today’s report is the first of two parts, with the second - due for publication in the Autumn - to examine ‘wider homelessness’, including people at risk of homelessness or those who have already experienced it, such as households that have been served an eviction notice and those in other forms of temporary accommodation.


Appendix 1: Great Britain estimates and forecasts










Rough Sleep
















Unsuit TA








Sofa Surfing

























Appendix 2




Notes to editors  

For more information, call 020 7426 3853 or email For out-of-hours media enquiries please call: 07973 372587  

Crisis Research:

  1. The report estimates that 159,900 households are experiencing the worst forms of 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. We estimate that core homelessness contains 57,000 ‘family’ households (couples or lone parents) containing 82,000 adults and 50,000 children, so that the core homeless ‘population’ is 236,000.

  2. A household is one person who lives alone or a group of people who live together at one address, who either share meals regularly (e.g. 4 times a week cooked by the same person) or who share a living room, which may be a kitchen-diner if large enough. 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.
  1. Forecasts are based on the current policies in each nation and assume neutral/benign economic and labour forecasting based on little change from the current picture. It forecasts key variables based on past data –including household formation/composition and other demographics, house prices and rents, new build, tenure, earnings, incomes, unemployment, poverty and affordability.
  2. The model calculated low, mid and high range estimates, and in all cases, the mid-range figures have been used. There are significant uncertainties about the coverage of some of the data sources and some of the assumptions used in making the estimates, and in some cases we have several different sources which may give somewhat differing numbers. The researchers applied judgement in interpreting this data and have mainly focused on the estimates which lie in the middle of the range.
  1. The research defines the terms used for different types of homelessness in the following way: 
    1. Sofa surfing refers to households staying with others (who are not their parents) on a short term/insecure basis 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.
    2. 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 away from their home locality


 Crisis is the national charity for homeless people. 

We are determined to end homelessness. We do it person by person and by influencing policies to ensure everyone has a place to call home.  

Homelessness is devastating, leaving people vulnerable and isolated.  

Crisis offers ground breaking housing, health, education and employment services.  We work with thousands of homeless people across the UK every year.  

We are also determined campaigners. We draw on our research, partnerships and years of experience of working directly with homeless people to deliver change and a vision to end homelessness for good.