Thousands of British families homeless despite being in work

by Adela Suliman | @adela_suliman | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 23 July 2018 12:02 GMT

Dawn, a homeless woman from north Wales, sits huddled under a sleeping bag next to her dog Casper in a shopping arcade near the Victoria rail station in central London December 14, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo

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The number of working homeless families, from security guards to hotel workers, has increased in Britain

By Adela Suliman

LONDON, July 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More than half of homeless families in Britain now have at least one adult in work after a sharp rise in the number of employed people unable to afford a secure home, a leading homelessness charity said on Monday.

More than 33,000 working families do not have a stable place to live, a 73 percent rise from 2013, according to a study by Shelter's social housing commission that blamed rising private rents, a freeze on benefits and a shortage of social housing.

"It's disgraceful that even when families are working every hour they can, they're still forced to live through the grim reality of homelessness," said Shelter CEO Polly Neate in a statement.

"In many cases, these are parents who work all day or night before returning to a cramped hostel or B&B (bed and breakfast) where their whole family is forced to share a room. A room with no space for normal family life like cooking, playing or doing homework."

Mary Smith, 47, works full time in retail and lives in a hostel near London with her three sons after she was evicted by her landlord and became unable to afford private rent.

"I was brought up by a very proud Irish woman, and taught that you don't discuss things like your finances - so letting my colleagues at work know what's happening is very hard," said Smith in a statement.

"I'm not hopeful for our future. I think it's going to be this constant, vicious circle of moving from temporary place to temporary place, when all my family want is to settle down."

Overall, homelessness has risen in England for more than six years, with 80,000 families in temporary accommodation including more than 120,000 children, government data shows.

Losing a tenancy is now the single biggest cause of homelessness in Britain, accounting for 27 percent of all households accepted as homeless in the last year, said Shelter.

The proportion of working homeless families, from security guards to hotel workers, has increased at different rates across Britain, with the East Midlands and North West England faring the worst, the report found.

It defines working families as those where at least one adult is in work.

Despite this, homeless charity Crisis said last month that Britain could end homelessness within a decade if it invested more in social housing and welfare benefits.

Britain's parliament last year passed the Homelessness Reduction Act, which was designed to ensure that local councils increased obligations towards homeless people.

The government has also set an ambitious target of building 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.

(Reporting by Adela Suliman, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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