Is homelessness going up or down?

Are more or less people going to experience homelessness in the future?

We’ve recently had some contradictory views.

The Government are right happy with the figures from the annual snapshot of rough sleepers. It does seem that there are now far fewer people sleeping on the streets now than there were before the pandemic.

(It’s worth noting that there are still people sleeping on the streets between October-December 2021 outreach teams recorded 1,314 people in London sleeping rough for the first time)

However, the English Homelessness Monitor strikes a more pessimistic note, projecting a significant increase in the numbers of people sleeping on the streets (as well as other forms of homelessness including sofa surfing)

Closer inspection reveals that there’s as much reason to be gloomy as to be positive. The number of households in temporary accommodation continues to rise

The number of homeless households continues to rise

The revolving door of households going through the system only to become homeless again, is showing some signs of improvement but is still stubbornly high

The government says there’s a new homelessness strategy coming and the noises are that there will be a focus on joint working including health, substance misuse and even building some new social housing.

It’s noticeable that there’s less mention of DWP or the Home Office being involved in the strategy.

Benefits and immigrations rules have a lot to do with how many people experience homelessness.

The amount that people are given in benefits is important, but so too are rules around who can claim and how. We’ve seen multiple approaches to this question over the past few years, with efforts to restrict or target benefits or to sanction recipients often leading to misery and homelessness.

Similarly, the hostile environment, including the “right to rent” and the rules around “no recourse to public funds” can put people in situations where it’s impossible for them to get any support with their housing.

As the authors of the homelessness monitor note, “a package of welfare benefit policies aimed at reducing destitution” would go a long way to ending homelessness.

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