Rough sleeping crisis worsens amid a storm of 'chronic' issues and shortage of affordable homes, report warns

A homeless person sleeping rough in a doorway. PIC: Yui Mok/PA Wire
A homeless person sleeping rough in a doorway. PIC: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Last September the Government set out a strategy to end rough sleeping for good by the end of this parliament.

But a group of independent experts, led by the late Lord Bob Kerslake from Sheffield before his death in July, instead warns today that long-term progress has not been made.

Snapshot figures from a single night in autumn last year show a 26 per cent increase in the number of people sleeping rough compared to 2021, and a 74 per cent rise since 2010 when recording began.

The number of households - and particularly children - in temporary accommodation is also at a record high.

A report by the Kerslake Commission concludes today that Government targets "will not be met" before next year's expected election, as it calls for priority action.

The challenge will come as people are being pushed out onto the streets amid a housing and affordability crisis, the report outlines, and as mounting pressure on public services hampers prevention support.

Emma Haddad, commission member and chief executive of St Mungo’s homeless charity, said the report “sets out starkly that we are working against the tide”.

She added: “We made so much progress on rough sleeping during the pandemic, which clearly demonstrated what can be done when we work together with a shared purpose and dedicated funding.

“It’s time we applied the same energy to stop this homelessness and rough sleeping crisis spiralling further.”

The Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping, comprising 36 experts, was set up in 2021 to look at lessons which could be drawn from the emergency response in the pandemic.

Lord Bob Kerslake, a former chief executive of Sheffield City Council who was head of Civil Service between 2012 and 2014, died before the report could be published.

Today, his family pay tribute to his "tireless" work "for the betterment of others". In a statement, they said he had been “saddened and dismayed by the rise of homelessness across our country”.

They added: “He was proud to chair the commission and totally committed to its findings. He would have been vociferous in publishing its conclusions and recommendations."

Among issues highlighted by the study are a severe shortage of social rented housing and supported housing, and the report calls for a lack of capacity in the system to be prioritised.

The commission also urged that homelessness and rough sleeping be treated as a priority within all departments and sectors, and said the Illegal Migration Act should be repealed.

Shadow homelessness minister Mike Amesbury said “This report provides a sobering assessment of rising homelessness driven by a chronic shortage of decent, secure and affordable housing after 13 years of Tory failure.

“A toxic mix of rising rents, the cost-of-living crisis and a failure to end no-fault evictions are hitting vulnerable people.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities paid tribute to Lord Kerslake for his “life’s work”.

They said the Government is “focused on ending rough sleeping for good”, spending £2bn to tackle the issue "in the areas that need it most”.

The spokesperson added that “significant progress” had been made “with over 640,000 households prevented from becoming homeless or supported into settled accommodation since 2018”.