There are now more homeless people in the UK than the population of Newcastle

(Originally published at Yahoo News)

The number of homeless people in Britain is larger than the population of Newcastle, alarming data revealed today.

Shock statistics from the charity Shelter estimate the number of rough sleepers has risen by more than 13,000 (4%) over the last year.

This puts the total figure somewhere in the region of 307,000, compared to Newcastle’s population of 296,478 (2016 mid-year population estimates, ONS).

By adding up the numbers of ‘official’ rough sleepers, those in temporary accommodation and social services figures, the report shows a shocking rise across the UK.

Analysis by Heriot-Watt University for homeless charity Crisis suggests the figure will pass the half-a-million mark (575,000) by 2041 if things don’t change.

But while this number might already be high, it’s thought the real figure could be even more drastic.

An estimated 14% of the population will be homeless at some point in their lives – whether this is manifested by sleeping on a friend’s sofa or moving into a hostel.

Official government records are not definitive and may not include those trying to keep a low profile.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: ‘It’s shocking to think that today, more than 300,000 people in Britain are waking up homeless. Some will have spent the night shivering on a cold pavement, others crammed into a dingy, hostel room with their children. And what is worse, many are simply unaccounted for.

‘On a daily basis, we speak to hundreds of people and families who are desperately trying to escape the devastating trap of homelessness. A trap that is tightening thanks to decades of failure to build enough affordable homes and the impact of welfare cuts.

‘As this crisis continues to unfold, the work of our frontline services remains absolutely critical. We will do all we can to make sure no-one is left to fight homelessness on their own. But we cannot achieve this alone; we urgently need the public’s support to be there for everyone who needs us right now.’

Shelter’s report, ‘Far from alone: Homelessness in Britain in 2017’, highlights not only the difficulties of escaping homelessness, but also the problems that lie around the freeze on housing benefit and recent roll-out of Universal Credit.

Over a third of people who are currently homeless will still be homeless in a year’s time.

Shelter also mapped out the areas of the UK with the largest number of homeless people.

Generally, it’s thought that one in 200 people are homeless. However in London, the figure is one in 50. In the West Midlands, it’s one per 278 people, and in the East of England it’s one for every 301.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the local authorities with the highest homeless population were all in London. Newham scored the highest where, on average, one in 25 people doesn’t have a permanent residence.

Next April will see the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act, which will aim to lengthen the period of time before an eviction from 28 days to 56. It will also force local authorities to spending more time looking into rehoming options for those who are being evicted.

The act includes funding of £61m for 2017-18 and 2018-19, with the potential for more in densely populated areas.

The research by Crisis found a 60% increase in new housing could reduce levels of homelessness by 19% by 2036, while a increased prevention work could reduce levels by 34% in the same period.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: ‘We are determined to tackle all forms of homelessness, which includes making sure people in temporary accommodation are getting support to keep a roof over their heads

‘We’re investing £950m by 2020 to support these efforts, and bringing in the Homelessness Reduction Act. This requires councils to provide early support to people at risk of being left without anywhere to go.

‘In 2011 we gave councils the power to place families in decent and affordable private rented homes, so they can move into settled accommodation more quickly. We have also recently announced a £2bn funding boost to build more social housing, including council homes.’

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