At least 320,000 people are homeless in Britain, according to research by the housing charity “Shelter”. This amounts to a year-on-year increase of 13,000, a 4% rise, despite government pledges to tackle the crisis. The estimate suggests that nationally one in 200 people are homeless. Shelter says its figures, which include rough sleepers and people in temporary accommodation, are likely to be an underestimate of the problem because they do not capture people who experience “hidden” homelessness, such as the sofa-surfers, and others living insecurely in sheds or cars, for example.
In London, 170,000 people – equivalent to one in 52 – have no home. Westminster had the most rough sleepers, 217, followed by Camden, with 127. In Kensington and Chelsea, the UK’s richest borough, there were over 5,000 homeless people – equivalent to one in every 29 residents. The figures indicate how homelessness and housing insecurity is spreading beyond its traditional heartland of London into the wider south-east and Midlands, and the impact of high rents and welfare cuts ripples outwards.
Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “Due to the perfect storm of spiralling 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. We desperately need action now to change tomorrow for the hundreds of thousands whose lives will be blighted by homelessness this winter.”
Melanie Onn, the shadow housing minister, said: “It is appalling that enough people to fill a city the size of Newcastle (should be) without a home. This is the outcome of eight years of austerity that even the United Nations say was designed to hurt the poor. (
My comment: Walk down a Central London street and you hear fewer and fewer English voices. Many are welcome visitors, but there is a huge number of rich foreigners laundering money and immigrants seeking work. They occupy property and have inflated buying and rental prices beyond the reach of British citizens, forcing Londoners to move away from the capital. This has caused more house price inflation all over the country. It reminds me of the period after the Second World War with mass homelessness caused by bombing, but at least that did not just discriminate against the poor. Brexit, however, could cause a major exit of hot money, dubious property owners and East European migrants, and bring the house price rise to a grinding halt. Current prices are quite ridiculous. (Of course a mass exit would be damaging for quite other reasons).