HOMELESSNESS is spreading to the middle class, homelessness charity Crisis is warning, as mass sackings of public sector workers along with the government’s onslaught on welfare benefits lead to a ‘flood’ of people on the streets.
In a report to be published next week, Crisis states: ‘Any significant reduction of the welfare safety net in the UK as a result of coalition reforms may, of course, bring the scenario of middle-class homelessness that much closer.’
Crisis says that currently 44,160 people are accepted by councils as homeless and placed in social housing, which is an increase of 10 per cent on last year.
But cuts in welfare benefits, along with a leap in the unemployment figures, will mean that a ‘flood’ of people are set to be made homeless and forced to sleep rough on the streets.
The charity says that in London rough sleeping rose by eight per cent last year to an estimated 3,600.
Leslie Morphy, Crisis chief executive, said: ‘We are extremely worried. Homelessness in both its visible and hidden forms is already rising and as the economic downturn causes further increases in unemployment and pressure on households’ finances, homelessness is likely to continue to rise.
‘This research is clear that it is the welfare and housing systems in the UK that traditionally have broken the link between unemployment and poverty and homelessness, yet these are now being radically dismantled by the coalition government.
‘The government must listen and change course before this flow of homeless people becomes a flood.’
Crisis says that in the past British welfare policy has linked housing benefit to actual rents, but the government’s new changes break this link and mean that reduced benefits will not be sufficient to pay rents.
In a separate report, Channel 4 News also reports that official figures underestimate the true picture of homelessness.
Two-thirds of homelessness organisations nationwide reported that there has been a rise in rough sleeping in their area.
Homeless Link, reveal that of 200 homeless organisations they surveyed, 66 per cent reported a rise in the number of rough sleepers in their area.
And Homeless Link chief executive, Jenny Edwards, said that the situation is getting much worse, as ‘vulnerable people with mental health issues or disabilities, who have relied on support in their accommodation, are finding that’s been cut back.’