Charity says at least 320,000 people in UK are ‘homeless’

The homeless in Windsor put up signs for the public on their pitches around the town Homeless in Windsor, UK - 06 Feb 2018

The United Kingdom charity Shelter says at least 320,000 people are homeless in Britain, a rise of 13,000 on last year, which Shelter says equates to 36 people becoming homeless every day.

The organization that campaigns to end homelessness and bad housing defines people as homeless if they are living on the streets or staying with family or friends because they do not have a home. It also says people are homeless if they are using hostels, night shelters, bed and breakfast accommodation, or if they are illegally squatting or living in homes that are in very poor condition.

Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive, said the issue is “having a devastating impact” on people nationwide.

“Due to the perfect storm of spiraling rents, welfare cuts, and a total lack of social housing, record numbers of people are sleeping out on the streets or stuck in the cramped confines of a hostel room,” she said.

The charity first tried to estimate the scale of homelessness in the UK in 2016. It believes an additional 25,000 people have become homeless since then but says the number is difficult to calculate because many people are not coming to the attention of the authorities.

The charity’s new figures follow a damning report from the United Nations that condemned the British government’s “punitive, mean-spirited and often callous” treatment of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people, the Independent newspaper noted.The UN said government policies and cuts to social programs contributed to high levels of poverty and homelessness.

The government said it is investing 1.2 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) on tackling the problem.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said a new national law now forces local governments to do more to prevent homelessness and noted the government is supporting those tackling the issue.

“No one should be left without a roof over their head, which is why we are determined to end rough sleeping and respond to the causes of homelessness,” the Guardian newspaper reported him as saying. “Our rough-sleeping strategy, support for councils and those working on the frontline are helping to get people off the street and into accommodation as we enter the colder winter months.”

The report says London’s 170,000 homeless people means the capital has Britain’s largest homeless population. Other towns and cities with a serious problem include Birmingham, Luton, Brighton, Slough, Dartford, Milton Keynes, Harlow, Watford, Epsom, Reading, Basildon, Peterborough, and Coventry.

The report notes the vast majority of the 320,000 homeless people in the UK, some 295,000, are in temporary accommodation provided by local authorities.

The government’s Homelessness Reduction Act, which was introduced in May, aims to eliminate rough sleeping by 2027.