Total numbers of homeless people in England are very difficult to calculate because of the transient nature of the homeless population and because the various forms of homelessness are counted in different, but sometimes overlapping ways.

However, there are various figures available. Some statistics are snapshot figures that count numbers of people at a particular moment in time. Others are ‘flow’ figures which count people becoming homeless over a period of time. Click the following links to find out more about the types of homelessness information available:

People sleeping rough are often difficult to count for a number of reasons, for example because people bed down at different times, move about, are hidden away in derelict buildings or travel on night buses. The numbers of people who sleep on friends’ floors, and stay in squats and other insecure accommodation are often not known.

In summary, the main sources of published statistics on homelessness are:

  • Local Authorities counts or estimates of people sleeping rough
  • Data from local authorities on the number of people who apply to them as homeless
  • Local authority data on cases of prevention of homelessness
  • Statistics from homelessness services about the numbers of clients they serve.

There is also a wide range of statistics on other housing matters which relate to homelessness, e.g. mortgage arrears and repossessions.

Our Big Lottery-funded, 3 year Critical Mass project explores whether or not client recording data can be used to inform policy and practice.

Rough sleeping

Local authorities, in partnership with other local agencies, evaluate levels of rough sleeping at any one time by carrying out annual street counts or estimates of people sleeping rough in their area. The methodology of these counts was overhauled in October 2010. Previously, these only count people actually seen ‘bedded down’ by local teams during a short period at night. Street counts are also not conducted in every local authority area. The new method introduced a more comprehensive method of assessing the scale of the problem across the country by requiring either a robust estimate or a count from all councils across the country.

Homeless Link has produced guidance to help local authorities, in partnership with other local agencies, to evaluate the extent of rough sleeping. It is designed to support the Government guidance: “Evaluating the Extent of Rough Sleeping: a new approach” published in September 2010. This toolkit provides guidance on the Government’s definition of rough sleeping, how local authorities can estimate the numbers of rough sleepers, including consulting and gathering information from local partners and if local authorities choose to conduct a count, how this should be carried out.

The following information and statistics are currently available:

  • Homeless Link has published a short briefing with key statistics on rough sleeping
  • Broadway publishes quarterly and annual reports on rough sleeping in London, based on data from the CHAIN database. Rather than street count snapshot figures, this database records over time all people sleeping rough in the capital contacted by outreach workers and other homelessness services
  • Supporting People client records gave information about those rough sleepers who access hostels and supported accommodation funded by the Supporting People (SP) programme. This data excludes people who are still on the street/not engaging with services, since it records an individual's needs and situation when they start receiving housing related support. Monitoring has previously been co-ordinated centrally, but from 1st April 2011 this has become the responsibility of individual Administering Authorities. For more information on SP Client Records please see below.

Statutory Homelessness and local authority statistics

Statutory homelessness figures relate to the definition of homelessness in the 1996 Housing Act. Local authorities collect statistics on people who apply to them for homelessness assistance and who they deem to be homeless under the legal definition.  Most single homeless people without children are not included in these figures statistics as they do not meet the criteria of being in ‘priority need’.

Statutory homelessness statistics for England are collated from local authorities and published by DCLG. Statistics are published quarterly and are broken down by region and local authority. The latest figures were released in March 2014, relating to Quarter 4 of 2013 (October - December 2013). Local authorities also collect the number of people they place in temporary accommodation and on Council waiting lists for housing.

From 2008/09 local authorities have been required to provide statistics on cases where positive action was successful in prevention or relieving homelessness. These prevention statistics are published by DCLG.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation has produced a selection of graphs and maps on homelessness on the Poverty Site.

SUPPORting people client records and outcomes

The Supporting People Programme is a central government funded programme which is managed and delivered at the local level by the 152 top tier administering authorities in England. Data is collected from many services accepting new service users into a Local Authority-funded service. The information collected includes client details such as client demographics, characteristics, needs and source of referral, which is then used to analyse overall trends and spot gaps or increased demand for services by particular groups.

The DCLG has ceased collecting data relating to Supporting People funded services after the collection of data to cover the financial year 1 April 2010 – 31 March 2011. Monitoring has previously been co-ordinated centrally, but from 1st April 2011 this has become the responsibility of individual Administering Authorities.

Administering Authorities are keen to continue collecting information past 2010/11 and many have signed up to continue to collect it in the same way as before.

More information on SP Client Records and Outcomes (including Homeless Link's analysis of published quarterly data) can be found on our Supporting People page.

Hostels and Supported Accommodation

Many single homeless people without dependent children who need accommodation and support move into hostels, the majority of which receive SP funding. Most people living in hostels have not been accepted as statutory homeless and so are not included in local authority figures.

Data about single homeless people with support needs using Local Authority-funded services are available from Supporting People client records. DCLG published quarterly reports of SP data until March 2011. The following also give summaries of SP data:

The Tenants Services Authority publishes quarterly CORE data on the numbers of lettings of supported housing made by housing associations and local authorities to single homeless people with support needs.

HIdden homeless

There are other people who are homeless who do not usually show up in official figures. These include those who become homeless but find a temporary solution by staying with family members or friends. These are often referred to as 'sofa surfers' or concealed households. Others live in squats.

There have been attempts to quantify the level of 'hidden homelessness'. The New Policy Institute, in their research for Crisis in 2003, estimated that there are between 310,000 and 380,000 hidden homeless people. This figure includes people in hostels, who are not "hidden". More information about hidden homelessness is available on the Crisis website.  

Housing AND OTHER statistics

A range of statistics is available on housing matters that relate to homelessness:

  • The Housing Strategy Statistical Appendix published by DCLG is a range of statistics provided by local authorities in England
  • DCLG also publishes annual housing statistics
  • The English Household Survey is an annual survey which includes information on issues such as overcrowding and housing conditions
  • The national Census which takes place every ten years includes data on household composition, people living in communal establishments like hostels and people identified sleeping rough. Homeless Link worked with the Office for National Statistics to ensure that homeless people were included via hostels and day centres on census day, 27 March 2011.  The 2011 Census data is being released throughout 2012 and 2013. 

Links to sources of statistics and data on other topics are available on the CESI website