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Almost 320,000 people in Britain are now homeless

Published: 22 November 2018

Almost 320,000 people in Britain are now homeless

New analysis from Shelter and Shelter Scotland reveals that the number of people registered as homeless in Britain has risen for the third year running to nearly 320,000 - laying bare the true scale of the housing crisis in Scotland, England and Wales.

In the last year, the overall number increased by 13,000 people. This means one in every 200 people in Britain are homeless and having to sleep on the streets or being stuck in temporary accommodation, including hostels and B&Bs.

Last year in Scotland, around 43,000 people – adults and children – became homeless, a household lost their home every 18 minutes and homelessness applications rose for the first time in 9 years.

Shelter and Shelter Scotland have launched an urgent appeal calling on the public to support its frontline advisers who help the growing number of people trying to find or keep a home.

In its annual landmark review, the housing charity combined official rough-sleeping, temporary accommodation, social services figures and Scottish Government homelessness statistics. As these records are not definitive, the true figure of homelessness is likely to be even higher.

Alison Watson, Deputy Director of Shelter Scotland, said:

“It’s unforgivable that almost 320,000 people in Britain have been swept up by the housing crisis and now have no place to call home. Around 43,000 people were made homeless in Scotland last year.

“Due to a perfect storm of spiralling rents, very harsh welfare cuts and a major lack of social housing, record numbers of people are sleeping out on the streets, stuck in poor quality accommodation or in a cramped hostel room.”

Alison Watson added:

“This year we mark our 50th anniversary, but we aren’t celebrating as our help is needed more than ever. Last year Shelter Scotland’s advice services helped more than 21,000 people our highest ever. 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.”

Stephanie's story

Stephanie on sofa with child's clothes

Stephanie from North Lanarkshire has been homeless for over a year. She’s eight months pregnant and has been signed-off work due to a chronic illness which leaves her in a lot of pain.  She spent months sleeping on a mattress on a friend’s floor because she couldn’t afford temporary accommodation when she was working. An error meant the council didn’t take her homelessness application which has delayed her getting help to find a permanent home. She used advice from Shelter Scotland’s helpline to get into a temporary flat. She’s currently being considered for a housing association home and is really hopeful her homelessness nightmare is coming to an end just in time for her baby’s birth.

Stephanie said: “When I was signed off work I was able to claim benefits to cover the cost but it’s unbelievable. They’re charging £1300 a month for a one bed flat when my neighbours who are in permanent tenancies are paying about £260. If I was working right now there is no way I’d be able to pay that. It’s a disgrace. I’ve also been told I’m not allowed anyone here after 10.30pm at night and I’m not supposed to install Wi-Fi even though I struggle to get out. It’s really isolating.

“I’ve had a hellish time and the strain it puts on your mental health is awful. The flat is in okay condition but given how much money they are charging for it it’s not that good.

“I’ve a baby on the way and I want to be organised but they can’t tell me when I will be moved to a two bedroom place; either temporary or permanent. I asked if I should bring things for the baby here and they said yes because they won’t consider me for a two-bedroom property until the baby is here and I can give them her birth certificate. I’m going to want my mum to stay with me when the baby comes but I’m not supposed to have overnight guests.

“I’ve been told I’m being considered for a housing association property. I really hope this will all be over soon.”

To support our urgent appeal please visit or text SHELTER to 70020 to donate £3.

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