More than 250,000 people in England are homeless or lack a permanent place to live, according to Shelter.
Releasing figures to mark its 50th anniversary on Thursday, the charity estimated that there were almost 255,000 people living in hostels and other types of temporary accommodation, or sleeping rough on the streets.
London is the centre of homelessness, according to the research, with the capital’s boroughs occupying 18 of the top 20 positions in Shelter’s list of the 50 places where people are most at risk of finding themselves without a home.
The analysis also identified homelessness “hotspots” in Brighton, Birmingham, Slough, Bristol, Coventry, Reading, Manchester, Luton and Chelmsford.
Shelter’s chief executive, Campbell Robb, said: “Shelter’s founding shone a light on hidden homelessness in the 60s’ slums. But while those troubled times have faded into memory, 50 years on, a modern-day housing crisis is tightening its grip on our country.
“We all face the consequences when so many in our country grow up without a place to call home. It breaks up communities and wreaks havoc on family life. For the sake of future generations, we must pull together to end this crisis and refuse to rest until every child has a place to call home.”
Shelter was launched half a century ago after Ken Loach’s seminal 1966 television film Cathy Come Home, which dramatised the descent of a young couple into poverty and homelessness.
The founders of Shelter envisaged the charity, which lobbied for improved housing conditions, would be needed for only a few years.
Evictions from private rented homes are the biggest single cause of recorded homelessness.
Shelter says its figures are a conservative estimate. It does not include the “hidden homeless” – those who have have nowhere to live but do not qualify for, or are refused, formal housing assistance and end up “sofa surfing” in friend’s homes.
The findings were calculated by Shelter after analysing figures obtained from government data and information from social services after a freedom of information request.
However, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said it did not recognise the figures and argued that official homelessness was half the 2003 peak, though it recognised that “one person without a home is one too many”.
A DCLG spokesman said: “That is why the government is investing over £500m during the course of this parliament to tackle homelessness. This includes protecting £315m for local authority homelessness prevention funding, and £149m of central government funding.”
Shelter found that in Birmingham, one in 119 people have no permanent home; 9,524 people were living in temporary accommodation and another 36 were rough sleeping, taking the number of people it categorised as homeless to 9,560.
Meanwhile, Westminster in central London was identified as England’s top homelessness hotspot, with one in 25 without a permanent home. Approximately 7,794 people were living in temporary accommodation and a further 265 were sleeping rough, meaning a total of 8,059 people were without a permanent home.
Cllr Martin Tett, housing spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said: “Funding pressures are combining with housing and rents continuing to rise above household incomes to leave many councils struggling to cope with rising homelessness across all areas of the country.
“Finding emergency housing for homeless people, particularly young or vulnerable people or those with families, is increasingly difficult for councils. There is no silver bullet and councils alone cannot tackle rising homelessness.
“It is crucial that the government recognises and addresses the wider factors that are increasing homelessness, such as the lack of affordable housing and welfare reforms.”
Shelter highlighted the case of a woman named Mandie, who was renting a flat in Luton with her two daughters. After being made redundant, she fell behind on the rent and was evicted.
She said: “We stayed in a hotel for months and now we’re in temporary accommodation. I don’t know where we’ll end up next, or when we’ll be able to have a home to call our own.
“This year, my daughters agreed to cancel Christmas. They’re normally hyped about it, but I think they’re trying to take the pressure off me. The only thing they asked for was whether we could still have a turkey dinner.”
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