55% of homeless families trapped in temporary accommodation are actually working, according to new research released by Shelter’s social housing commission.
Based on freedom of information requests, the exclusive analysis shows that more than 33,000 families are holding down a job, despite having nowhere stable to live. This has increased by 73% since 2013, when it was 19,000 families.
This trend in ‘working homelessness’ is being driven by a combination of expensive private rents, the ongoing freeze on housing benefit, and a chronic lack of social homes.
High housing costs are a major area of concern for many working families, particularly those in low-paid, part-time or contract jobs. In fact, losing a tenancy is now the single biggest cause of homelessness in the country – accounting for 27% of all households accepted as homeless in the last year.
With hundreds of thousands of working families struggling to keep a roof over their heads, the charity’s commission – the Big Conversation – will make bold recommendations on the role social housing needs to play in easing the housing crisis.
Polly Neate, CEO of Shelter, said: “It’s disgraceful that even when families are working every hour they can, they’re still forced to live through the grim reality of homelessness.
“In many cases, these are parents who work all day or night before returning to a cramped hostel or B&B where their whole family is forced to share a room. A room with no space for normal family life like cooking, playing or doing homework.
“We cannot allow struggling families to slip through the cracks created by our housing crisis – the government must urgently come up with a new plan for social housing that delivers the genuinely affordable homes we desperately need. Our commission on the future of social housing will be calling for bold solutions, because more of the same is simply not good enough”
Mary Smith, 47, lives in temporary accommodation in Watford with her three sons. They became homeless after being evicted by their landlord. Mary works full-time in a shoe shop, but still can’t afford to rent privately.
Mary said: “I was brought up by a very proud Irish woman, and taught that you don't discuss things like your finances – so letting my colleagues at work know what's happening is very hard. Luckily, I have an understanding manager now, but I nearly lost my job when I first became homeless because the transport links from my hostel were so bad.
“We’ve lived in three different temporary places in two years, and it’s been really tough on the children. Sometimes, I even think that I don't want to wake up in the morning, but I do. I get on with it because I have other people relying on me.
“I’m not hopeful for our future. I think it's going to be this constant, vicious circle of moving from temporary place to temporary place, when all my family want is to settle down. We don't want a palace, we just want a place that we can call home.”