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Housing

Homelessness facts and statistics: The numbers you need to know in 2022

Experts worry about a looming crisis of homelessness. These are the rough sleeping figures and homelessness facts you need to know.

Despite living in the world’s sixth biggest economy, people are still living with no place to call their home in this country. This injustice must end.

But before you can tackle a problem, you must first learn the scale of the issue. That’s why it is vital that we know the facts and figures about homelessness.

After the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic, households are facing a cost of living crisis in 2022 which could push even more people to the brink of homelessness. The Big Issue is battling to help them keep their home.

Here are the numbers you need to know:

How many people are homeless?

  • In terms of street homelessness, official rough sleeping statistics showed the number of people living on the streets fell for a fourth consecutive in England with an estimated 2,440 people people sleeping rough on a single night in autumn 2021.
  • The statistics, which are based on single-night counts and estimates, show an almost 10 per cent fall on the 2,688 people counted in 2020 and are almost 50 per cent lower than then peak in 2017 when 4,751 people were counted as living on the streets.
  • But the numbers are also 38 per cent higher than when the Conservatives took power in 2010 when 1,110 people were experiencing street homelessness.
  • The majority of people sleeping rough in England are male, aged over 26 years old and from the UK. Meanwhile the Office for National Statistics found men who are living on the street outnumber women at a ratio of six to one.
  • However, the official figures are thought to be an underestimate as they are based on single-night snapshot accounts and estimates.
  • The Salvation Army is currently calling a change in the way rough sleeping figures are collected. Loritta Johnson, The Salvation Army’s director of homelessness services, said: “These government snapshot figures only cover who was sleeping rough on one particular night in England during the autumn and therefore are limited and should be met with caution. The Salvation Army is calling for reforms to data collection, and for more robust figures to be used to measure homelessness in England, much like the quarterly CHAIN figures for London, so we all have a true scale of reality of rough sleeping across the UK.”
  • The London-only Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) figures are considered to be more accurate. They showed 11,018 people were seen sleeping rough in London between April 2020 and March 2021, an increase on the 10,726 people spotted by outreach workers and charities in the previous year. The figures show rough sleeping has increased by 94 per cent in the last decade – almost double the number of people living on the streets in the English capital 10 years ago.
  • The latest quarterly CHAIN figures found 2,714 people sleeping rough in London between January to March 2022. This represented a 10 per cent drop in the number of people who were recorded in the same period in 2021. However, frontline workers counted a 15 per cent rise in the number of people who were deemed to be living on the streets, amounting to 363 people in total.
  • In Wales, the official count has been suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic but recent management statistics show that around 128 people are sleeping rough around the country as of September 2021.
  • And while Scotland doesn’t use the same method as England and Wales, data from the Scottish Household Survey suggests just over 700 people bedding down on the streets in a single night. Amounting to around 5,300 adults sleeping rough at least once per year.
  • As for wider homelessness, English councils helped 268,560 households to prevent or relieve homelessness between April 2020 and March 2021.
  • The most recent statutory homelessness figures in England found 67,480 households required support from local councils between October and December 2021. While that was only 400 households less than the previous quarter, the figures indicated a rise in people receiving no-fault evictions that experts termed as “worrying”. In total, 5,260 households asked local authorities for help to avoid homelessness after receiving a notice, more than 160 per cent higher than the same period in 2020 and 37 per cent higher than before the pandemic in 2019.
  • Miniters promised to scrap no-fault evictions – which allow a landlord to evict a tenant without giving a reason – in 2019. Since then, nearly 230,000 private renters have received a notice, according to Shelter, amounting to one every seven minutes.
  • In Wales, 13,161households were assessed as homeless and were owed council support to help them into secure accommodation in 2020/21.
  • In Scotland, there were just over 26,000 households recorded in the homelessness system in September 2021, down from 27,036 in April 2020
  • The latest statistics also showed a fall in the number of households living in temporary accommodation, which had hit a decade-high point during the pandemic. In total 13,192 were living in temporary accommodation in September 2021, down from 14,151 in the previous year.
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Spending on homelessness

  • Local authority expenditure on homelessness-related services has reduced significantly as compared to expenditure ten years ago; in 2008/9, £2.9 billion (in current prices) was spent on homelessness-related activity, while in 2018/19, £0.7 billion less was spent (Homeless Link)
  • In 2018/19, nearly £1 billion less was spent on support services for single homeless people than was spent in 2008/09 (Homeless Link)
  • The UK government has spent around £700m on homelessness and rough sleeping during the Covid-19 pandemic and plans to spend a further £750m in 2021.
  • Over the next three years, the UK government will spend £640 million a year on homelessness and rough sleeping. That includes a £433m investment in meeting the target of ending rough sleeping for good by 2024. Ministers have announced plans to convert hotels and schools into accommodation for rough sleepers to “provide 2,900 homes between 2021 and 2024.
  • Westminster ministers have also promised to spend £316m in preventing homelessness in 2022/23 with money distributed to councils to help people find a new home or secure temporary accommodation as well as supporting people facing eviction.

Homelessness and Covid-19

  • The UK government’s Everyone In scheme has protected more than 37,000 people during the pandemic. As of January 2021, 11,263 people remained in emergency accommodation and 26,167 people had been moved on to permanent accommodation through the scheme.
  • The government has promised 3,300 long-term homes will be made available to help rough sleepers protected from the virus.
  • In Scotland, £50m has been spent by the Scottish Government on hardship funding and £22m on the Scottish Welfare Fund to tackle homelessness during the Coid-19 pandemic. Additionally, more than £875,000 has been spent providing support for people who are living with no recourse to public funds and cannot claim benefits.
  • The Welsh Government initially spent £10m on providing accommodation to over 800 people at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. This was followed up with £20m to ensure that people did not have to return to the streets once the pandemic has ended. 
  • A move away from temporary accommodation is being funded by a £50m investment as part of Phase 2 of Wales’ homelessness action plan.

Homelessness and health

  • Three quarters of homeless people quizzed in a 2014 Homeless Link survey reported a physical health problem
  • Meanwhile, 80 per cent of respondents reported some form of mental health issue, while 45 per cent had been officially diagnosed with a condition
  • 39 per cent said they take drugs or are recovering from a drug problem, while 27 per cent have or are recovering from an alcohol problem.
  • 35 per cent had been to A&E and 26 per cent had been admitted to hospital in the six months before they took part in the survey

What do people think about homelessness?

A poll from Ipsos Mori and the Centre for Homelessness Impact, published in April 2021, set out to understand the British public’s perception of homelessness.

The research found just under nine in ten people agreed homelessness is a serious problem in the UK and almost three quarters said they believe it does not get the attention it deserves.

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The British public also believe homelessness is a consequence of societal issues outside a person’s control than down to a person’s poor choices, with 52 per cent blaming wider problems in the poll compared to 17 per cent on the individual.

More than half (56 per cent) saw homelessness as affecting the whole of society, compared to 20 per cent believing it only impacts on the person experiencing it.

The public also supported investing money in preventing homelessness rather than paying to deal with the issue when it reaches crisis stage with 61 per cent in favour of that approach.

The study is part of the Centre for Homelessnes Impact’s End it with Evidence campaign with polling company Ipsos Mori, aiming to use data to bring about a sustainable end to homelessness.

What is hidden homelessness?

Hidden homelessness is the term used to describe people who do not have a permanent home and instead stay with friends or family.

Also known as sofa surfing, many people in this situation may not consider themselves homeless and may not seek support from services. This makes it difficult to know exactly how many people are homeless, especially as they are not on the streets like rough sleepers and, therefore, not visible to frontline homelessness outreach workers.

Homelessness charity Crisis has estimated that as many as 62 per cent of single homeless people do not show up on official figures and run the risk of slipping through the cracks.

How do most people who are homeless die?

Nearly one in three people die from treatable conditions, according to a 2019 University College London study. Researchers warned that more preventative work was needed to protect physical health and long-term condition management, especially for more common conditions such as cardiovascular disease.

Homeless deaths have only been counted in recent years. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s pioneering Dying Homeless project counted the deaths of 796 people in 18 months before handing over the project to the Museum of Homelessness in March 2019.

MOH’s latest count revealed 1,286 people died across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in 2021 – a rise of a third on the 2020 tally and 80 per cent than the first annual figure the campaigners published in 2019.

More than 90 per cent of deaths with known circumstances occured in insecure housing while Covid-19 played a small role in only seven deaths.

In total, more than 40 per cent of deaths were related to alcohol abuse while 12 per cent were due to suicide.

Responding to the figures, MOH co-founder Jess Turtle said: “These findings are a hammer blow. It’s heart-breaking to see so many people dying and to feel so helpless in the face of such a serious emergency.”

She added: “There needs to be a confidential enquiry into the deaths of homeless people to allow an honest appraisal of what’s happening to the UK’s most vulnerable people. There should also be mandatory fatality reviews for all local authorities – so lessons can be learned from each death.”

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MOH used a combination of freedom of information requests, local news reports and submissions from the public to produce a count covering all kinds of homelessness, ranging from rough sleeping to people living in hostels and temporary accommodation. That method differs from the official counts where death certificates are analysed for signs a person died without a stable home.

The first official Office for National Statistics figures for England and Wales arrived three months before the end of TBIJ’s project, reporting 597 estimated deaths in 2017. The most recent count reported 688 people died without a secure home in 2020 with Covid accounting for just 13 deaths.

The first-ever official homeless deaths count in Scotland arrived in 2020 using a similar methodology to the Office for National Statistics.

The latest count reported an almost-20 per cent increase in deaths with an estimated 256 people dying without a stable home in 2020. Despite the pandemic, no deaths were attribute to Covid-19 with drug-related deaths dominating the figures.

How can we stop homelessness?

The response to the first national Covid-19 lockdown has already shown that a lot can be achieved when the political will is there.

The Big Issue has launched an urgent campaign is called Stop Mass Homelessness. Since summer 2021, The Big Issue has been working to prevent thousands of people from falling into homelessness after being affected by the pandemic. Sign our petition and find out how you can take action now here.

You can keep the pressure on the politicians too by writing to your local MP, AM or MSP urging them to keep ending homelessness top of the agenda in parliament.

You can also give your time or money to volunteer and donate to help homeless charities doing vital work to help and house people affected by homelessness. There are tons of ways to help, even just by donating your coat to help out in winter.

And, of course, you can buy The Big Issue magazine to help us support vendors all over the UK, giving them the means to lift themselves out of poverty.

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