LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain could end a homelessness crisis within a decade if it invests more in social housing and benefits, a charity said on Monday, warning that the number of rough sleepers could nearly double in 25 years if no action is taken.
Crisis estimates there are 236,000 people sleeping rough or in temporary accommodation in Britain, where homebuilding has been declining for decades, driving up property prices.
In a report published on Monday, it said building 100,500 social homes per year for the next 15 years and better identifying rough sleepers could eradicate homelessness in Britain within the next decade.
If no action is taken, it forecasts the number will nearly double by 2041.
“Nearly 160,000 people in Britain experience the worst forms of homelessness, from living in cars and tents to sleeping on the street,” said Hannah Gousy, public policy and public affairs manager at the homelessness charity.
“Yet we can, and should, prevent homelessness from ever occurring in the first place,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Homelessness has risen in England for more than six years, with 80,000 families in temporary accommodation including more than 120,000 children, government data shows.
“Social housing has too long been neglected in England ... there are more than a million households stuck on social housing waiting lists, many for years on end,” said Polly Neate, chief executive of homeless charity Shelter, in emailed comments.
The government has set an ambitious target of building 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.
A spokesman for Britain’s housing ministry said it was investing more than 1.2 billion pounds ($1.60 billion) to tackle homelessness.
“Many challenging factors lie behind rough sleeping, from mental health problems to addiction and our long-term strategy to be published this summer will outline how we plan to tackle them and eliminate rough sleeping for good,” the ministry said in a statement last week.
Tom Murtha, co-founder of SHOUT, which campaigns for more investment in social housing, said building more homes would be a welcome step, but called on the government to make better use of existing social housing.
Ending homelessness will only be possible “if we make existing social rent homes available to homeless people ... and increase resources in agencies working with them,” he said by email.
Reporting by Zoe Tabary @zoetabary, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org