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Britain’s homelessness crisis is a national shame that must not be ignored

Shocking figures released by the housing charity Shelter reveal that 320,000 people in Britain are homeless and sleeping on the streets or stuck in temporary accommodation, including hostels and B&B’s.

The number has increased by 13,000 over the last year alone, and now means that 1 in every 200 people in Britain don’t have a place to call home.

According to Shelter’s analysis of homeless data, London has the highest levels of homelessness, with almost 170,000 people or one in 52 recognised as being homeless.

Other towns and cities feeling the impact of the housing crisis include Brighton, where 1 in 67 local people are homeless, Birmingham (1 in 73) and Manchester (1 in 135).

Shelter’s analysis includes official rough-sleeping data, the numbers of people known to be living in temporary accommodation, and information provided by social services.

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However, the charity warns the true extent of Britain’s homelessness crisis is likely to be much worse, as official records are not definitive and may exclude certain groups of homeless people.

Shelter’s report ‘Homelessness in Great Britain: the numbers behind the story’ says rising homelessness is due to a combination unaffordable rents, frozen housing benefits and a severe shortage of social housing.

Telli Afrik, who is in his 30’s, is living in a hostel in Waltham Forest with his wife and two children, aged 3 and 5, after being made homeless because they could not afford housing costs.

“At first, we were fortunate because we went to live with my aunt”, he told Shelter. “But not long after we moved in, she died of a heart attack and the council took the house back.

“We were made homeless instantly. I sobbed that night, all of us were in tears.

“Our current hostel is so cramped and everyone’s competing for space. My family all sleep in one room and we eat our meals on the floor because we don’t have a table. There are two bathrooms but one isn’t in good shape. It’s hard to bathe. It’s just very tough.

“I had a new job as a supermarket manager, but they terminated my contract because I was always at appointments with different housing teams. That was a direct result of our homelessness.

“Financially we’ve been brought to nothing. My confidence – nothing. My family is at breaking point.”

Polly Neate, CEO of Shelter said: “It’s unforgivable that 320,000 people in Britain have been swept up by the housing crisis and now have no place to call home. These new figures show that homelessness is having a devastating impact on the lives of people right across the country.

“Due to the perfect storm of spiralling rents, welfare cuts and a total lack of social housing, record numbers of people are sleeping out on the streets or stuck in the cramped confines of a hostel room.

“We desperately need action now to change tomorrow for the hundreds of thousands whose lives will be blighted by homelessness this winter.

“Shelter’s services have never been more needed. That’s why we’re asking the public to support us this winter so that we can answer as many calls as possible and have trained advisers on hand when people need them most.”

Shelter has launched an urgent appeal calling on the public to support its frontline advisers as they work to help the growing number of homeless people.

To support Shelter’s urgent appeal please visit www.shelter.org.uk or text SHELTER to 70020 to donate £3.

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