Luton tops the UK homeless list with 1 in 66 of the population sleeping on the streets or in temporary accommodation

'Not only is this is an extremely difficult situation for those affected, but also demands significant input from council finances'

By Lynn Hughes
Thursday, 9th December 2021, 12:37 pm

One in 66 people in Luton are classed as homeless according to the latest estimated data from the charity Shelter, the worst figure for the entire UK (excluding London).

And despite work being done by Luton Council, the numbers are continuing to grow, with 415 new households asking for support in the borough last month.

The homeless figure incorporates those rough-sleeping or in temporary accommodation and is believed to be 3,246 in Luton. Fifteen of those are living on the streets, the rest are living in temporary accommodation organised by Luton Council.

The homeless figure incorporates those rough-sleeping or in temporary accommodation and is believed to be 3,246 in Luton

Next is Brighton and Hove with one in 78 people homeless, with Manchester third at 1 in 81 people homeless.

READ THIS: Omicron warning for Luton residents as council says face coverings are not always being wornIn the East of England nearly 15,000 people are homeless right now, including almost 7,000 children, according to new research published by the homeless charity Shelter today (Thursday). And the charity is warning a tough winter and living cost crisis could see homelessness surge

Shelter’s detailed analysis of official rough-sleeping and temporary accommodation figures shows that one in every 422 people in East of England are currently without a home. Of these, more than 260 people are sleeping rough on any given night and over 14,000 people are living in temporary accommodation – most of whom are families.

Covid protections such as the ‘Everyone In’ scheme, the eviction ban, and the boost to Universal Credit played a vital role in keeping people in their homes and supressing homelessness during the pandemic. Now Shelter is warning with these protections gone, living costs soaring and another uncertain winter ahead, there is a risk of the flood gates reopening and thousands more people losing their homes across the country.

Shelter is calling on the public to support its frontline workers who have been inundated with calls to its emergency helpline from people facing homelessness this winter. The charity says it’s hearing from people who are facing a night on the streets in freezing conditions after being turned away from emergency accommodation, as well as many families in dire straits living in grotty hostel rooms where parents and siblings are forced to share beds, and there are only communal facilities.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “We predicted the pandemic would trigger a rising tide of evictions and our services are starting to see the reality of this now. We’re flooded with calls from families and people of all ages who are homeless or on the verge of losing their home.”

A spokesman for Luton Council said: "Homelessness – a term which encompasses anyone who does not live in permanent accommodation, rather than solely those living on the streets - continues to be a constant challenge for many authorities across the country. In Luton everyone has access to a roof over their heads, as we fulfil our duty to provide temporary accommodation to all those who require it.

"Homelessness is a complex issue and the council is working hard in various ways to remedy the situation. As a small, well-connected airport town with a diverse population that has links all over the world, yet limited space for development, Luton faces particular challenges with regards to housing.

"Since April the council has reduced the number of households for which we have provided temporary accommodation from 1,220 to 1,143. Nevertheless the scale of the problem is underlined by the fact that in November alone we were approached by 415 households looking for assistance. Not only is this is an extremely difficult situation for those affected, but also demands significant input from council finances.

"We are working closely with neighbouring Central Bedfordshire who will be providing for 7,350 new homes by 2031 which Luton is unable to physically fit within its own administrative area due to its tight boundaries.

"We are continually looking for opportunities to build suitable high quality homes – particularly for families. As part of our Luton 2040 vision we are committed to halving the number of households living in temporary accommodation and the delivery of 4,000 new homes, including 500 affordable homes for residents by 2025.

"Poverty is a key factor in homelessness and we continue to work with stakeholders across the town to tackle issues such as debt, homelessness and unemployment that can lead to households falling into financial crisis.

"In addition our homeless teams work with highly respected partner organisations across the town to tackle the reasons behind homelessness and give appropriate support to those affected. The Big Change initiative, which has been operating since 2019, has channelled the generous donations of the people of Luton to those agencies best placed to help transform lives.

"As Christmas time approaches we are encouraging everyone to consider making a donation, however small, so together we can do all we can to eradicate homelessness in our town."

While Shelter’s analysis is the most comprehensive overview of recorded homelessness in the country, the figure is likely to be an underestimate due to limited reporting. In addition, some types of homelessness go entirely undocumented, such as sofa surfing, meaning the true figure will be much higher.

Polly Neate continued: “It is shameful that nearly 15,000 people in the East of England are without a home, and with Covid protections now gone thousands more will be joining them. A shoddy hostel room or a freezing cold doorway is no place to wake up on Christmas morning, but sadly so many people will.

“This winter the work of our frontline staff is as critical as ever. Our emergency helpline advisers work 365 days a year, doing everything they can to help people find a safe and secure home. By giving a little the public can help us do a lot - with their support we can keep providing support and advice to thousands of families facing homelessness this year.”

To donate to Shelter’s Winter Appeal and help give thousands of people fighting homelessness the urgent support, security and hope they need in the tough months ahead, visit shelter.org.uk/donate.

To give to the Luton campaign go to https://justgiving.com/campaign/bigchangeluton