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Homeless up by 65% in 7 years

HOMELESSNESS has rocketed by 65 per cent in the last seven years, government figures reveal.

Almost 80,000 families, couples and single people have been housed in temporary accommodation as they have nowhere else to live. The rise from 48,010 in December 2010 was described as ‘nothing short of a tragedy’ by charity Crisis.

The true number of homeless is likely to be considerably higher as the figures do not take account of rough sleepers and ‘sofa surfers’ relying on the kindness of friends.

Crisis chief executive John Sparkes said: ‘Our continued decline of social housing, welfare cuts and rising private rents are pushing more and more people into homelessness and unsuitable temporary accommodation. The government must act urgently to stop this trend.’

The number of households living in temporary accommodation was 79,190 in September, the Department for Communities and Local Government figures show.

Some 61,090 of them included children and/or pregnant women, with a total of 121,000 youngsters affected.

Some 132 of the households with children were former residents of fire-ravaged Grenfell Tower or blocks nearby that were put out of action by the blaze in west London.

A national survey last year found there were more than 4,000 rough sleepers in England, although charities believe that is an underestimate.

Some never come to the attention of authorities because they do not seek help.

Councils have a legal duty to house the homeless but only if they meet certain criteria.

Single people and childless couples not thought to be vulnerable are excluded, along with asylum-seekers and some other people from overseas.

Charity Shelter said the freeze on housing benefit and problems with the introduction of universal credit had led to many claimants being evicted.

‘People are having to choose between buying food for their kids, paying their utility bills or coming up with rent,’ said boss Polly Neate.

A DCLG spokesman said: ‘Tackling homelessness is a complex issue but we are determined to help the most vulnerable in society.

‘That’s why we are providing over £1billion up to 2020 to prevent and reduce all forms of homelessness and rough sleeping.’