Charity braces for homelessness spike as new figures reveal the extent of rough sleeping

As new figures reveal the scale of homelessness across the country, ITV News Investigation Correspondent Daniel Hewitt spoke to some of those being forced to live outside of their own four walls

At least 271,000 people were homeless in England on any given night last year, according to research from a charity "bracing" for a spike in homelessness in 2023.

The figure is equivalent to one in 208 people and almost half (45% or 123,000) of these were children, Shelter estimates.

Of the total, some 15,000 people were in hostels or supported accommodation and nearly 250,000 - mainly families - were living in temporary accommodation.

London had the highest rate - with around one in 58 people homeless - while people were least likely to be homeless in the North East, which had a rate of one in 2,118 people.

ITV News heard from one woman who, along with her 17-year-old daughter, has been homeless for four-and-a-half months.

Ayesha Rahim said she has been forced to move into a one bedroom flat, owned by her elderly mother, where she sleeps on a single mattress in the living room.

She and her daughter were evicted from their home, in Newham, last year and given temporary accommodation, but after that property flooded they were forced to move in with Ms Rahim's mother.

According to Ms Rahim, who lives with a long-term pain condition, the situation left her feeling suicidal.

"It’s really hard… really, really hard. I can’t sleep because I’m thinking when is it ever going to end, when are we going to have a place to call home," she said.

"Last year I was feeling suicidal and I did attempt suicide, but something stopped me."

Shelter's estimates have been reached using government statistics, Freedom of Information (FoI) requests and data from the membership charity Homeless Link.

They cover people in temporary accommodation, hostels and those on the streets. They do not include the various forms of hidden or unofficial homelessness, such as sofa surfing or overcrowded homes.

Consequently, they are likely to underestimate the true scale of homelessness in the country, Shelter said.

The total is slightly down (1%) from the previous year, when 274,000 were estimated to be homeless on any given night in 2021.

This is driven by a 2% fall in the number of people living in temporary accommodation, after a peak in early 2020, when the Government rolled out the Everyone In scheme during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the slight annual dip, over the last decade, use of temporary accommodation has risen by an “alarming” 74%, Shelter said.

The charity said this was down to a "chronic shortage" of social homes.

According to government figures as of March 2022, more than two-thirds (68%) of families with children in temporary accommodation have been living there for longer than a year.

Shelter's Chief Executive Polly Neate told ITV News "there is nothing for you" if you become homeless, because of "decades of failure to build enough social homes".

"Rents are soaring. Housing benefit is not keeping up with rents because it’s been frozen," she said.

"People simply cannot afford to pay their rent. If you can’t afford to pay your rent ultimately you will be evicted."

A government spokeswoman said: "Councils have a duty to ensure no family is left without a roof over their heads. That is why we’ve given them £366 million this year to help prevent evictions, support to pay deposits and provide temporary housing.

"Temporary accommodation is always a last resort. Over half a million households have been prevented from becoming homeless since 2018 through the Homelessness Reduction Act.

"We are also providing significant support to help people through these tough times by holding down energy bills and delivering up to £1,350 in direct cash payments to millions of vulnerable households."

For advice and support on homelessness you can contact the following organisations

  • Shelter - 0808 800 4444

  • Crisis - 01865 263900

  • Porchlight - 0800 567 7699

  • Two Saints - 01329 234600

  • Knight Support Street Link - 0300 500 0914

Where to go if you need support with your mental health:

  • Samaritans - 116 123

  • Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men - 0800 58 58 58

  • Papyrus – for people under 35 - 0800 068 41 41

  • Childline – for children and young people - 0800 1111