One in 200 people now known to be sleeping on the streets or stuck in temporary accommodation.
The number of homeless people in the UK is soaring by a rate of more than 1,000 a month, according to new analysis which says that one in 200 Britons are now without a permanent place to live.
The figures, which show that 320,000 people are currently known to be sleeping on the streets or stuck in temporary accommodation, highlight the depths of the country’s housing crisis, despite repeated government pledges to get to grips with the problem.
Opposition politicians and campaigners said it was “unforgivable” that so many people had been swept up by the housing crisis and attributed the rise to spiralling rents, welfare cuts and a lack of social housing.
The new data from Shelter, which combines official rough sleeping, temporary accommodation and social services figures, shows the total number of homeless people has increased by 13,000 in the last year and by more than 25,000 in the past two years.
London reported the highest levels of homelessness, with almost 170,000 people, or one in 52, without a place to call home. Cities outside the capital were also disproportionately affected, with the figure standing at one in 67 in Brighton, one in 73 in Birmingham and one in 135 in Manchester.
Homelessness dropped substantially between the late Nineties and 2010, but has been rising since the Conservatives came into power, despite repeated promises from ministers to reduce rough sleeping and build more affordable housing.
The new figures come days after the United Nations condemned the British government’s “punitive, mean-spirited and often callous” treatment of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable, saying policies and drastic cuts to social support were entrenching high levels of poverty and homelessness.
Telli Afrik, in his thirties, lives in a hostel in Waltham Forest with his wife and two children aged three and five after the family stopped being able to afford their privately rented home – despite working. They are now in their sixth hostel.
“At first, we were fortunate because we went to live with my aunt. 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,” said Mr Afrik.
“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.
“Financially we’ve been brought to nothing. My confidence – nothing. My family is at breaking point.”
Polly Neate, chief executive 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.