'We're trapped': Rising numbers of working people in England are finding themselves homeless

Daniel Hewitt has a special report on new figures that reveal the number of people working full time who are homeless has risen 8.1% in the last year

With rents and council house waiting lists at record highs, more and more working people in England are finding themselves homeless.

Of those who became homeless in England in 2022, one in four households had at least one person in work. 

New data released today reveals 72,790 households where someone has a full or part time job became homeless or were threatened with homelessness.

For those in full time work, the numbers facing homelessness at the end of 2022 increased by 22% compared to the same period 2 years ago.

"I feel very lost"

Nicole, from Shepherd's Bush in west London, is a 33-year-old full-time support worker for a disabled person.

After she broke up with her boyfriend she rented privately with a friend, but they were soon evicted when the landlord decided to sell the property at the end of March.

"I just want to live like a normal person"

Nicole, now unable to find anywhere to rent due to a highly competitive market and steep rent costs, has found herself moving from hostel to hostel.

She wakes up in the cheapest hostel she can find and takes her belongings into storage for the day while she works, before booking somewhere else for the night.

The cycle repeats.

"I'm furious... I'm lucky if I get them to read the message," she says of her desperate attempt to find a flat.

"And if I have got a viewing, I've gone to it, they've seemed really nice and happy with me, I've been happy with the property, I've explained my situation... I either don't get any contact back or they message me an hour or so after to say they've given it to someone else.

Nicole documents her housing struggle through video diaries

"It's a guessing game, I don't know where I'm going to be until I open my eyes and I do the groundwork to make something happen for myself."

"It's just a whirlwind... I feel very lost."

Nicole has been living like this for four weeks and, at £60 a night for a hostel, is quickly running out of money and savings.

Living out of a suitcase has become Nicole's everyday life while she remains unable to get any emergency help from the council.

"(It is) draining, tiring, frustrating, confusing, overwhelming mentally and emotionally."

Nicole spoke to Investigations Correspondent Dan Hewitt about finding a hostel every night.

"I go to work all day and at work I'm trying to figure out what I'm doing with my evening and where I'm doing it.

"Then having to get my stuff together and bring it with me so I have it to get ready for work in the morning... It's been absolutely depleting to say the least."

A last resort, she added, would be leaving London and moving back home to Yorkshire.

Charlie Trew, the head of policy at housing and homeless charity Shelter, told ITV News: "We’re increasingly seeing families and older people stuck in insecure private renting, knowing that if they complain they could be kicked out, or living in terror of that no fault eviction landing on their doorstep, knowing they’ve only got two months to find somewhere."

"That’s not enough time in a market as overheated as ours right now, to find somewhere safe and secure to live."

Lisa and Lee Costigan were forced to move into a caravan.

'We're trapped'

In Colchester, Lisa and Lee Costigan, along with their two children, face a similar problem.

The couple had always rented privately, but three years ago their rent became unaffordable and they were forced into a caravan in Lisa's parents' garden to try and save money.

Both work - Lee full-time, repairing gym equipment, and Lisa part-time at a cattery.

But as the pandemic hit and rents have shot up even higher, the few properties they can afford are highly competitive and they keep being turned down.

Lisa and Lee have been living in the caravan for three years.

They've been told there's a wait of three to four years for a social housing property.

"We both work, we have money, but we can hardly afford anywhere to rent, the places we can afford we keep getting turned down for and the council aren't offering us anywhere," Lisa said.

"We're not sitting at home waiting for money to come to us, we're going out and working and still struggling."

"We're trapped."

Lisa Costigan describes the living conditions for her ten-year-old son

The Costigans' caravan is small - their ten-year-old son sleeps in a cupboard room in a bed designed for a toddler, and they have one oil heater between all four of them.

Lisa spoke about the toll the situation is taking on her mental health while she stays at home with her son and four-year-old daughter.

"I'm stuck in these four walls, it's a lot of stress," Lisa said.

"I've really struggled - mentally, really struggled. I have been on antidepressants purely for being here... I've not been on them before."

The room where the Costigans' ten-year-old sleeps.

Lee added: "Prices have just gone through the roof and trying to find somewhere that's adequate enough to have our children in... It's very hard."

"We've been told we have no choice, we have to look at privately renting but we can't go private renting because we're not earning enough, so it seems like an impossible task."

Homelessness as a whole has increased, with 290,330 households facing homelessness in 2022 - a rise of 6% compared to the year before.

The number of households in England living in temporary accommodation has also topped 100,000 for the first time in almost 20 years.

Lee Costigan works full-time.

There are 14% more families with children who are facing homelessness compared to the same period last year.

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said in a statement: “Over 600,000 households have been prevented from becoming homeless or supported into settled accommodation since 2018 but we know there is more to be done to help families at risk of losing their homes.

“We are giving councils £1 billion through the Homelessness Prevention Grant over three years, to help them prevent and tackle homelessness targeted in areas where it is needed most.

“This is on top of £26 billion cost of living support this year – helping those most in need.

"Local authorities have a duty to ensure no family is without a roof over their head and temporary accommodation plays an important role in this.

“Our forthcoming renters’ reforms will deliver a fairer, more secure, and higher quality private rented sector, reducing the risk of tenants becoming homeless.”

If you're struggling with housing issues please email housingstories@itv.com to share your story.

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