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A recent report published by the homeless charity Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation discovered that nine out of 10 English councils found it difficult to help homeless single people. ‘The Homelessness Monitor: England’ is an annual independent study that analyses the impact of economic and policy developments on homelessness.
The report found that a majority of councils across England - faced with a sharp rise in the number of single homeless people – are backing a change in the housing law to expand the criteria of homeless prevention, adopting a similar approach to that practiced in Wales, to include anyone faced with the loss of their home and not just those deemed to be high priority such as families with children.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “It’s a critical time for homelessness in England. Councils up and down the country are struggling to help single homeless people and fear that recent welfare reforms are likely to make the problem worse. On top of the desperate human tragedy, this will be incredibly expensive for the public purse as local services are forced to pick up the pieces.”
A shortage in secure rental premises is seen as one of the key factors underpinning the problem, according to the report, after the number of households which became homeless after a private tenancy ended, rose to 16,000 in 2014, four times the rate in 2010.
Julia Unwin, chief executive of the JRF said: “These figures show that the housing crisis cannot be solved unless much more is done to improve the number of safe, secure rented tenancies. Local Authorities and housing providers must work closely with central government to increase the number of homes available across all tenures.”
With a 12 per cent increase in the number of people placed in temporary accommodation last year, the report warns of an unprecedented housing crisis due to a combination of housing and welfare changes that could leave social and private housing out of reach for thousands of the country's poorest people,
Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, lead author, warned: “The majority agree that we need a change in the law to expand homelessness prevention, and such a move could represent a major step forwards. Nevertheless, without action to ease access to housing for those supported by benefits, it’s hard to see how councils will cope if homelessness continues to rise.”
Above all the report urges the government to act swiftly and comprehensively to provide greater access to secure affordable housing, especially in the rental sector, and to change the law so that single people are not pushed towards homelessness and the informal sector.
Beside the obvious human tragedy, the negative social impact together with the compound financial consequences of homelessness pose a very real threat to the future of both our communities and the economy.