Charity Homeless Link has today published its annual research report on the state of the homeless sector, which reveals that the funding for and availability of homelessness support is shrinking at the same time as demand is increasing.
Support for Single Homeless People in England 2022, which combines primary research with analysis of existing homelessness data, found that almost a quarter (24%) of homelessness accommodation providers had seen a decrease in funding since 2021, with a further 56% reporting no change in funding. Given high inflation over this period, this indicates that most services experienced significant real terms funding cuts.
This annual decline in funding came as rough sleeping in England increased by 26% and continues the trend of a longer-term squeeze of homelessness support. The research shows that a fifth of accommodation services have consistently reported funding decreases over the past decade. The number of services has fallen by 33%, from 1,362 to 911 since 2012, with the number of bed spaces available to people experiencing homelessness decreasing by a fifth to 33,093.
While the number of accommodation services grew by 2% in 2022, this was driven by an increase in London (16%), with every single other English region recording a decrease or no change in the number of services since the previous year.
The growth in need for homelessness support is outstripping supply. Four fifths of homeless day centres (81%) and two fifths of accommodation providers saw an increase in people needing support due to the cost of living crisis and the majority of services supported more people who were experiencing homelessness for the first time (79% of day centres; 50% of accommodation providers).
Rick Henderson, CEO at Homeless Link, the national membership body for frontline homelessness services, said:
“The homelessness sector continues to deliver extraordinary work in difficult circumstances. Against the backdrop of the cost of living crisis, charities face increased demand for their services, in particular in terms of the complexity of need of the individuals they are supporting, while resources available are shrinking. This leads to the alarming conclusion that we will not be able to meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our society unless urgent action is taken.
“The Government must refocus its efforts on preventing homelessness, providing more social housing and raising the Local Housing Allowance rate so that people on low incomes have a more realistic chance of finding somewhere affordable to live. And we need a commitment to sufficient, sustainable funding of the services that offer a lifeline to people who do fall through the gaps and find themselves without a place to call home.”