Homelessness in UK hits record-high, charity warn

A 'homeless person on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Picture:Lisa Ferguson
A 'homeless person on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Picture:Lisa Ferguson
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Homelessness has reached a record-high with more than 170,000 families and individuals experiencing destitution in an increase caused by a doubling of those sleeping rough or in tents, cars and public transport, a study suggests.

The scale of homelessness was 13% higher last year compared to 2012, with an increase seen every year in between, according to the research published on Sunday by charity Crisis.

The majority are sofa-surfing or living in hostels, but 12,300 were sleeping rough, nearly 12,000 in vehicles and tents and almost 21,000 in “unsuitable” temporary accommodation, the study said.

READ MORE: 13,000 children in Scotland homeless on Christmas Day

Over five years in Great Britain, these types of precarious living are believed to have increased by around 100%.

The report estimates 170,800 households - a lone person or a group living at the same address such as a squat - are experiencing the most dire forms of homelessness compared to 151,600 in 2012.

Crisis’s chief executive Jon Sparkes said: “Christmas can be an incredibly difficult time for people who are homeless. While others are celebrating with family and friends, homeless people face a daily struggle just to stay safe and warm.

“While rough sleeping is the most visible form of homelessness, for every person on our streets there are another 12 families or individuals experiencing other terrible situations like sofa-surfing and living in cramped B&Bs.”

The report, carried out by Heriot-Watt University, also gives an insight into the diversity of the problem, saying there are 4,200 people aged 65-plus and 38,000 under 25s who are homeless.

It was published after official statistics showed nearly 600 homeless people died last year, a rise of almost a quarter over five years.

On average they were dying at the age of 44 - a life expectancy nearly half that for people in stable housing - because of high rates of suicide, drug poisonings and alcohol-related issues.

Crisis is calling on governments to tackle the root causes of homelessness, which it attributes to a lack of social housing, welfare payments failing to cover private rents and a lack of homelessness prevention sch