More than a quarter of a million adults and children in England are homeless and living in temporary accommodation during the pandemic, according to a new report.
Standing at 253,000, the figure is the highest such total in the country in 14 years, the investigation by the charity Shelter says.
The charity’s Homeless and Forgotten study highlights what it calls England’s “housing emergency”, and says a lack of social homes “is leaving thousands stuck in unstable temporary accommodation with nowhere else to go”.
The report says 115,000 more people are living in temporary accommodation in England than 10 years ago, with the use of emergency B&B housing – usually arranged by local councils – leaping 371% in that period.
Shelter says Covid-19 risks “turbo-charging” the housing crisis, citing Government data showing the number of people affected jumped by 6,000 in the first three months of the pandemic.
The charity says the country is suffering from a desperate shortage of social homes and has issued a plea to the public to lends its support to the charity to help those affected, especially over Christmas and winter.
“Over a quarter of a million people – half of them children – are homeless and stuck in temporary accommodation,” Shelter’s chief executive Polly Neate said in a statement.
“This should shame us all. With this deadly virus on the loose, 2020 has taught us the value of a safe home like never before. But too many are going without, because of the chronic lack of social homes.
“Many people will spend Christmas in grim, dangerous places, cut off from loved ones and faced with a daily struggle to eat or keep clean.
“As the country continues to reel from the financial shockwaves caused by the pandemic, our services will do all they can to support those battling homelessness.
“This year has been unbelievably tough, but with the public’s generous support we will do our best to give hope and help to everyone who needs us.”
Shelter conducted interviews with 21 homeless families and individuals “trapped” in temporary accommodation for its report.
It said the shared experiences revealed from the interviews were feelings of isolation, “not being able to stay safe”, poor diets, difficulties keeping clean and negative impacts on mental wellbeing.
One interviewee, Jenny, was living with her two toddlers in temporary accommodation in south-west London described as a “tiny, self-contained flat is in extremely poor condition”.
“It’s a complete nightmare,” she told Shelter. “We don’t feel safe, it’s always noisy, you don’t know who you’re living next to. The police are always around – someone tried to break down our door once, which was terrifying. It’s so difficult to do simple things like your laundry.
“The kids sleep on the sofa. There’s barely any space for them to eat – let alone play. I can’t let them play in the garden because there are needles and broken glass.
“This is no place to bring up a family. I worry constantly about what impact this is having on them.”
To donate to Shelter’s urgent winter appeal visit www.shelter.org.uk/donate.