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A child becomes homeless in Britain every eight minutes

Posted 03 Dec 2019

A staggering 135,000 children in Britain are homeless, living in temporary accommodation, according to a report launched today by Shelter – which is the highest number in 12 years.

For the first time, the charity has exposed the frequency with which children are becoming homeless, as its Generation Homeless report reveals a child loses their home every eight minutes. This is the equivalent of 183 children per day, enough to fill 2.5 double decker buses.

The report also shines a light on the 5,683 homeless families with children currently living in emergency B&Bs and hostels – widely considered the worst type of accommodation. Families are often squashed into one room with little space to cook, play or eat their meals; are forced to share bathrooms with strangers; and the accommodation is often located miles away from schools, jobs and loved ones.

Case study: Will, 10, lives in a single room with his mum, dad and younger brother in an emergency B&B in Ilford. Will and his family became homeless after being served a Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction.

Will said: “Life in the B&B is horrible, it’s worse than being in a real-life horror film. There’s no room to do anything, even if I’m reading my book, as I’m still going to get annoyed by someone. I’ve been told off by someone for running in the small corridor, you can’t do much, you can’t play much. I don’t get to play that often.

“Sometimes me and my little brother Harry, we fight for the one chair, because we both want to sit at the table, and sometimes he wins and sometimes I win. I find it really hard to do my homework as I get distracted by my little brother and I don’t have another room to work in peace.

“We moved here in September, and they said we were going to stay for six weeks. Then they told us we were going to stay for two more, then they told us it will be another week, then another one.”

With a severe lack of social homes, expensive private rents and welfare cuts driving the country’s housing emergency, Shelter is warning that if nothing changes, 1,647 children will be made homeless between now and the time of the general election on December 12 and 4,026 by Christmas day on December 25.

The charity is calling on every political party to put housing at the top of its domestic agenda and is asking the public to support its urgent Christmas appeal.

Shining a light on the devastating impact the housing emergency is having on young lives across the country, the report also revealed:

  • In England, the areas with the highest proportion of homeless children are the London boroughs Kensington & Chelsea, Haringey, Westminster and Newham where 1 in every 12 children are homeless.

  • Outside the capital, the places with the highest concentration of homeless children are Luton (1 in every 22 children), Brighton & Hove (1 in every 30) and Manchester (1 in every 47)

  • And this bleak picture is also illustrated in England’s classrooms, where there is an average of five homeless children for every school in the country.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “The fact 183 children become homeless every day is a scandalous figure and sharp reminder that political promises about tackling homelessness must be turned into real action.

“Day in, day out we see the devastating impact the housing emergency is having on children across the country. They are being uprooted from friends; living in cold, cramped B&Bs and going to bed at night scared by the sound of strangers outside.

“Every child has the right to a safe home and if we act now, we can help get them to a better place. So, every donation will mean Shelter can be there for the children and families who need us this Christmas.”

To donate to Shelter’s urgent Christmas appeal please visit or textSHELTER to 70030 to donate £3. Texts cost your standard network rate + £3. Shelter receives 100% of your donation.

Notes to editors:

Further quotes from Will: “I love to read my book at the end of the day, and I struggle to because part of the time, my little brother Harry needs to go to bed. And we need to turn off the lights which means I can’t see the pages.

“It’s really annoying that I can’t go to sleep in the bed that we share, as I have school and sometimes I am really miserable because I didn’t get a good night’s sleep. And Harry, he doesn’t like being woken up early when he hasn’t had a good night’s sleep, as he sometimes falls asleep at school.”

Hi-res images are available via Dropbox here:

For interviews with Shelter spokespeople or case studies please phone Shelter’s media team on 0344 515 2162 (or 0785 090 1142 if out of hours).

Notes to the editor:

Table 1: Children that are homeless and in temporary accommodation

Regions of EnglandNo. of children in temporary accom. as at 31st March 2019Total no. of children in populationRate of homeless children (1 in x children)Q1 2014 Children in Temporary Accom.% change in no. of homeless children in TA since Q1 2014No. of families with children in emergency accom. (B&Bs or hostels)% change in families with children in emergency accom. (B&Bs or hostels) since Q1 2014 [care some low bases]
North East200559,3372,79714934%20233%
North West4,1501,635,755394855385%290339%
Yorkshire and The Humber8101,228,0641,51656643%70400%
East Midlands2,3201,051,564453771201%28090%
West Midlands7,3701,362,0031852,157242%670232%
East of England8,4001,404,2731673,063174%71059%
South East11,6802,062,4491775,99295%460-18%
South West3,0201,164,4233861,94355%19057%
Wales (As at Q2 2019, compared to Q2 2015)1,614665,2654121,26328%15346%
Great Britain134,42914,336,84010788,78851%5,68311%

Table 2: Families and children becoming homeless 2018/19

Regions of EnglandNumber of households with dependent children that became homeless, 2018/19 financial year (owed a relief duty)Number of households with dependent children that became homeless per day (owed a relief duty)A household with dependent children becomes homeless every x minutes (owed a relief duty)Estimated number of children that became homeless, 2018/19 financial year (owed a relief duty)Estimated number of children becoming homeless per day (owed a relief duty)A child becomes homeless every x minutes (estimated, owed a relief duty)
North East94035591,5894331
North West3,860111366,5231881
Yorkshire and The Humber2,21062383,73510141
East Midlands2,52072094,25912123
West Midlands2,92081804,93514107
East of England3,34091575,6451593
South East4,360121217,3682071
South West2,17062423,66710143
Great Britain39,5481081366,8361838
  • The total number of children that are homeless and living in Temporary Accommodation is calculated by adding the latest relevant figures from the official homelessness statistics of England, Scotland and Wales. Wales is estimated by using a multiplier of 1.75 children per family with children in temporary accommodation, which is based on average family size in Wales according to the 2011 Census. This number stood at over 134,000 in early 2019 and as trends are upward in all three countries, will almost certainly have reached at least 135,000 now (3rd December).

  • Rates of homeless children are calculated by comparing the number of children that are homeless and living in temporary accommodation with the number of people aged 0-18 in the corresponding area, from the ONS 2018 mid-year population estimates by single age.

  • The number and rate of children becoming homeless has been calculated by using official figures on the number of families with children becoming homeless in 2018/19 (owed a relief duty) and multiplying this by 1.69 which is the average number of children in a family that became homeless in 2018/19 according to a Freedom of Information request that Shelter sent to all councils, and was returned by over 200 of them.

  • More detail on the sources, calculations and results - including full local breakdowns - are available in our new report, Generation Homeless

About Shelter

Shelter’s urgent appeal will pay for frontline services to support children and their families facing bad housing and homelessness this Christmas. We campaign to make sure that, one day, no one will have to turn to us for help. For free and independent advice from Shelter visit: