Hunt for the ‘hidden homeless’ is urgent says Salvation Army

published on 6 Apr 2023

The Salvation Army has welcomed the news of new Government research into the true scale of ‘hidden homelessness.’

The church and charity has been lobbying for better data on all forms of homelessness for a number of years to ensure that support services can be properly planned and delivered as well as sufficiently funded.

A recent review into hidden homelessness by ONS (Office of National Statistics) suggests that women, young people and ethnic minority groups are more likely to be ‘hidden homeless’, which means they are not recorded as being without a home. However, it’s not currently possible to know how many people in the UK are affected.

Assistant Territorial Director of The Salvation Army’s Homeless Services Unit, Malcolm Page, said: “Sadly, the man who was sleeping in his car for three weeks and the mum living with her two children in one budget hotel room are typical of the people we see at our foodbanks, debt advice centres and shelters. They may not be on the streets but they are a hair’s breadth away from rough sleeping and are living hand to mouth each day. We have long campaigned for robust methods of recording the number of people who are homeless to ensure these people are counted and able to access help.

“Rough sleeping is the most visible type of homelessness, but there are thousands more without a home, including children, who are missing from official records, so missing out on support.

“They may not be on the streets, but they are in temporary, overcrowded, or unsafe conditions without proper facilities or privacy. They are forced to live in cheap B&Bs and hostels, in garages and cars, or rely on friends and family for a floor or a sofa to sleep on, making everyday life a huge struggle. They are also subject to many of the same problems as those sleeping rough, such as mental and physical ill health and family relationship breakdown.

“Unless more is done to reveal and understand the true scale and nature of the homelessness problem facing the UK, the considerable investment the Government is making to tackle the issue can’t be used effectively.

“More also needs to be done to stem the growing tide of homelessness amid the cost of living crisis. It’s vital the Government protects the vulnerable in society from becoming homeless in the first place by raising the housing element of benefits, which has been frozen since 2020, to prevent more households from falling into arrears.”

The Salvation Army is calling on the Government to:

  • Introduce measures that could increase and sustain housing and accommodation options for people who are homeless or sleeping rough.
  • Increase Government funding for homelessness and rough sleeping in line with inflation to help the sector meet the needs of those currently or at risk of homelessness.
  • Remove the freeze on the housing element of both Universal Credit and legacy benefits so this covers the true cost of privately rented accommodation.
A woman sitting on the sofa with her children, she has her arms around her young daughter and they are both looking at and smiling at a teenage boy reading a kids book.

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