What's the definition of homelessness?
In the worst cases, being homeless forces people to sleep on the streets. This is often called street homelessness or rough sleeping.
Thousands of people are living in hostels and bed and breakfasts. Too many people, including families and children, are living in insecure, expensive and often poor quality temporary accommodation.
Hidden homelessness, including sofa surfing, is a huge problem. It is difficult to estimate how widespread it is. However, we know that ‘no longer being able to stay with friends or family’ is a primary cause of homelessness.
In the fifth-richest country in the world, this is unacceptable.
How many people are homeless in England?
274,000 people in England are homeless
During the pandemic in 2020, more than 2,600 people slept on the streets on any given night.
120,000 children live in temporary accommodation
The number of households living in expensive and insecure temporary accommodation has doubled in the last ten years.
60% of adults living in temporary accommodation are women
More women than men are affected by homelessness.
What the pandemic showed us
Homelessness is not something that's bound to happen. In 2020, the government showed what can be achieved with political will,.
In response to the pandemic, the government took an approach that had never been taken before. Its goal was to protect those out on the streets and sleeping in communal night shelters.
Many people were helped into emergency accommodation as a result. Though not perfect, this proved it is possible to get people off the streets.
What people now tell us
We hear from our helpline that people in need of emergency housing are being turned away by councils. Our Legal team supports people forced to take their council to court in order to get somewhere to stay.
The good news is that there are thousands of us fighting for the rights to home and we've never been stronger.
Our impact on government funding
We handed in a petition signed by 29,000 people in December 2021. Our petition called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to get everybody off the streets during winter. And we won.
The government announced an extra £28 million to help vaccinate and accommodate people sleeping rough.
But we still need clear guidance for local authorities to make sure everyone is accommodated safely and given the support they need.
Join our campaign and fight for the rights of people facing homelessness.
Solution to homelessness
In August 2021, we produced a report in response to the government’s ambition to get ‘everyone in’ during the pandemic.
Our report recommends five steps to support people facing homelessness.
Five steps out of homelessness
With emergency accommodation
Protect everyone at risk of homelessness during the pandemic.
Access to housing and support for everyone.
With financial assistance
Prevent more people living on the street.
Adequate housing benefit to prevent eviction, homelessness and rough sleeping.
Permanent new housing
Help people move into settled accommodation.
Investment in social housing to prevent homelessness.
Help people settle and stay in their homes
To prevent repeat homelessness.
Support to pay bills, organise services and find employment.
People with lived experience to produce solutions
Harness their expertise and knowledge of homelessness.
Listen and learn from experts with experience to end the housing emergency.
Successes so far
November 2020: almost 20,000 Shelter supporters sign a petition to get people off the streets during the pandemic. The petition is started by campaigner Rhys who has experience of sleeping on the street.
Rhys calls on the (then) Homelessness Minister Kelly Tolhurst to discuss the need for clear guidance to councils. Rhys won his meeting with her.
November 2020: the government launches the Protect Programme. It announces £15 million funding for 10 local authorities.
January 2021: the government announces a further £10 million in Protect Plus funding. Funding is available to all local housing authorities.
Help us fight for the rights of people facing homelessnessJoin our campaign
May 2021: the government announces £203 million funding for the Rough Sleeper Initiative. This is to fund 14,500 bed spaces and 2,700 support staff. This is an 81% increase from the £112 million provided last year.
December 2021: we hand in our petition signed by over 29,000 Shelter supporters. The petition calls on the prime minister to get everybody off the streets during the winter and ongoing pandemic.
December 2021: the government announces £28 million funding to protect and vaccinate rough sleepers.
Page updated: 18 January 2022