Extra 40,000 people in England homeless this Christmas, says charity | Homelessness #Extra #people #England #homeless #Christmas #charity #Homelessness

Nearly 40,000 more people than last year are expected to spend this Christmas homeless, in a sign that England’s housing emergency is out of control, according to the charity Shelter.

The 14% increase in people spending the festive season in hotels, B&Bs and other temporary accommodation emerged from official figures and freedom of information requests.

A cocktail of factors are widely seen as undermining the nation’s ability to properly house all of its population. Housing benefit rates have been frozen for four years despite private landlords making record rent hikes. The number of households needing council help with actual or threatened homelessness rose to six times higher than the number of new social homes built, and the Covid pandemic tipped more families into crisis.

In the past year there was a 26% increase in rough sleeping, with 140,000 children living in temporary homes and 20,000 people living in hostels or supported accommodation, the housing charity’s analysis shows.

Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive, said 309,000 people would be spending the festive season this year “in a tiny hostel room or freezing in a doorway”. She said: “It is appalling that the government has allowed thousands of families to be packed into damp and dirty B&B’s and hostel rooms, which are traumatising children and making people desperately ill.”

The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said it was spending £2bn to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping and added: “Temporary accommodation is an important way of making sure no family is without a roof over their head, but councils must ensure it is temporary and suitable for families, who have a right to appeal if it doesn’t meet their household’s needs.”

Last month the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, announced that housing benefit would increase from April 2024 to better match actual rents. While 178,000 new homes were built last year, the most since 1989, this was well below the more than 300,000 widely accepted as needed annually. A ban on “no-fault” evictions, first promised by the government in April 2019, has been delayed indefinitely.

Homeless populations vary widely across England, from one in 20 people in the London borough of Newham to more than 30 times lower in Norwich, Durham, Guildford and Cheltenham.

For the families affected, Christmas can be bleak. This week, one group of homeless people published pictures of their festive lunches from previous years, including a tin of cold baked beans eaten with a wooden supermarket fork and a pack of reduced-to-clear luncheon meat.

“Living through this has been the worst experience of my entire life,” said Theresa, who has been homeless in Bournemouth for more than a year with her four children aged five to 18. She had led a stable life in a rented bungalow that “was going to be my home for ever” but then lost her job in a bingo hall during the pandemic and was evicted after a dispute with the landlord over disrepair and arrears.

For nine months the family lived in a single hotel room with her children doing homework in the toilet. They are now in temporary accommodation provided by the council. “Unless they build more houses, people are going to be in this situation for a long time,” Theresa said.

Emma and her sons, aged seven and 17, were made homeless in November in Clitheroe, Lancashire, after a section 21 no-fault eviction. The 44-year-old has had to split up her family because the temporary accommodation offered required them all to sleep in the same bed.

“It feels like a prison cell,” she said. “Recently the shower wasn’t working for 10 days and we had to use the cold water in the bathroom sink to wash or the communal bathroom downstairs, sharing with strangers. This is so upsetting. I feel I have let my children down even though this is not my fault.”

#Extra #people #England #homeless #Christmas #charity #Homelessness

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