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With a household becoming homeless every 4 minutes, better protection against coronavirus is needed for families in emergency accommodation

Posted 19 Mar 2020

The government has released new figures on homelessness in England today, which show: 

  • In the last year a household became homeless every four minutes in England.

  • There are 62,280 homeless families living in temporary accommodation (TA), of which 9% (5,400) are living in emergency B&B’s and hostels where they have to share facilities (kitchens and bathrooms), and often sleep in a single room.

  • The number of families living in temporary accommodation has increased by almost a third (31%) in the last five years.

“Thousands of families with children are in this situation, living in cramped emergency B&Bs and hostels. It can be more difficult for them to follow NHS isolation guidance when they are sharing kitchens and bathrooms with strangers, living a single room or even sharing a bed. And we don’t know how children will cope being stuck in these conditions when schools close. 

Polly Neate, chief executive at Shelter, said: “In the last few days, the government has acted swiftly to help renters and people sleeping rough by putting in place strong emergency measures to help safeguard these groups during the coronavirus crisis. It must now do the same for homeless families in shared and one-room temporary accommodation. 

“We need to protect families already experiencing the trauma of homelessness from greater risk of coronavirus. That’s why we’re urging the government to follow suit with additional funding and support for councils to help those currently in shared temporary accommodation and prevent anyone else ending up there. This is a key way we can keep more people safe.” 

Notes to editors:

Anyone who is facing homelessness can get free and expert advice from Shelter by visiting or by calling our emergency helpline on 0808 800 4444. 

  • Following the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA) in April 2018 the government (MHCLG) has changed the way it collects data from local councils on statutory homelessness. The HRA has given councils new duties to assess, prevent and relieve homelessness for anyone who is eligible for assistance.

  • The rate at which a household became homeless in the last year is calculated by dividing the total number of minutes in a year (525,600) by the number of households that were owed a relief duty from October 2018 to September 2019. 131,010 households were owed a relief duty from October 2018 to September 2019. This is available at MHCLG, Statutory homelessness live tables, Initial assessments of statutory homelessness duties owed, Table A1

  • The number of families living in temporary accommodation (including emergency B&Bs and hostels) is at the end of September 2019. We compared this to data from the end of September 2014. This is available at MHCLG, Statutory homelessness live tables, Households in temporary accommodation, Table TA1.