130,000 children homeless after Christmas 2017. Why?
Our housing system is in a mess. A child looking down from the window of a tower block on to Britain’s streets today will see the widest and clearest picture of what is getting rapidly worse. That child will also, most likely, not be white.
We have known since 2005 that most children growing up in the tower blocks of Britain – the majority of children ‘living in the sky’ in Britain – are a member of an ethnic minority.
The number of people officially recorded as sleeping on the streets of England rose from 1,768 in 2010 to 4,134 in 2016 and then 4,751 in 2017, but charities estimate the true figure to be more than double this. The most recent national rise of 15% was the seventh rise in seven years running. Street homelessness has risen every year since the Coalition Government was elected in 2010.
The statistics also show the continued spread of rough sleeping into areas of the south of England. Oxford, Southend-on-Sea, Thanet, Swindon, Medway, Eastbourne, Hastings, Worthing, Peterborough, Reading and Wiltshire all recorded rises in the most recent year of at least double the national average 15% rise.
Homeless families housed by local authorities in temporary accommodation each year have been rising from 50,000 in 2010 to 78,000 in 2017. More than 103,000 children were homeless in the UK at Christmas in 2015, almost all in England. That then rose to 124,000 in 2016. By Christmas 2017 the figure was approaching 130,000 children, all waking up in temporary B&B accommodation on Christmas day.
Furthermore, in London alone there are an estimated 225,000 “hidden homeless” very young people aged 16-25 – arranging their own temporary accommodation with friends or family. Millions more adults and children are in rent arrears and live in fear of becoming homeless. The effect of just the fear on peoples’ health is the equivalent of the effect on your health of losing your job. The health effects of actually becoming homeless are far worse.
Building more homes will not solve the homeless problem or the housing crisis. The problem of inflated prices lies in property speculation.
The direct cause of homelessness rising since 2010 is the rapid and continuous rise in evictions from private sector tenancies where rents have been rapidly increased as landlords increase their profits. Such evictions more than tripled in number between 2010 and 2016.
The much more important indirect cause is that those with the power to stop this do not care enough. Preventing rapidly rising street homelessness, rising numbers of children being without a secure home at Christmas, and a huge increase in people living in fear of losing their home is not hard – unless you believe it is necessary. A large amount of academic work suggests that some politicians think homelessness is an unavoidable necessity.