On any given night last year, at least 2,967 people in Bristol were homeless, according to data released last week by the charity Shelter. In response to the figures, a spokesperson for Bristol City Council said “preventing homelessness remains our priority” but recognised that “the city remains gripped by a housing crisis”.
Shelter’s research, derived from an analysis of official homelessness figures and responses to Freedom of Information requests, shows that nearly 10,500 people are recorded as homeless in the South West, including 4,350 children. According to the figures, Bristol had the highest rate of homelessness in the region, with around one in 183 people living in a hostel, temporary accommodation, or on the streets.
Of the total number of people Shelter says were homeless in Bristol and the surrounding area last year, 87 were sleeping rough, and 2,880 – mainly families – were living in temporary accommodation. Shelter estimates that almost half of those without a home, 44 per cent, or 1,291, were children.
Nationally, Shelter’s research shows that at least 271,000 people are recorded as homeless in England, including 123,000 children equating to a national rate of one in 208 people. London had the highest rate, with around one in 58 people homeless, while people were least likely to be homeless in the North East, with a rate of one in 2,118 people.
The charity has warned that it is now “bracing” for a spike in homelessness in 2023. Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said: “The new year should be a time of hope, but this isn’t the case for the 271,000 homeless people who are facing a truly bleak 2023.
“A cold doorway or a grotty hostel room is not a home, but this is reality for too many people today.
“With private rents and living costs continuing to soar, thousands of people are not just facing a winter of worry; they are at risk of losing the roof over their head.
“At Shelter, we are bracing ourselves for a sharp rise in homelessness in 2023. More than ever, we will be relying on the public’s generosity to help us support and campaign for all those fighting for a safe home.”
Shelter’s homelessness estimates have been reached using Government statistics, Freedom of Information requests, and data from the membership charity Homeless Link. They cover people in temporary accommodation, hostels, and those on the streets but do not include forms of unofficial homelessness, such as sofa surfing or overcrowded homes. As a result, Shelter suggests that the data is likely to underestimate the true scale of homelessness in the country.
In response to the latest figures from Shelter, a spokesperson for Bristol City Council said: “The city remains gripped by a housing crisis that sees 19,000 households on the housing waiting list and over 1,000 families and individuals currently in temporary accommodation.
“We have accelerated our own council house building programme, as well as supporting partners to build more affordable homes, to help deal with the lack of affordable move-on accommodation available for people to progress from the emergency accommodation we provide.
“In 2021/22, Bristol built 2,563 new homes – exceeding the Mayor’s ambitious manifesto target by over 25 per cent. That included 474 new affordable homes, the most in any year in the last twelve.
“In July 2022, we launched the Living Rent Commission to address the rising costs of renting in Bristol as well as the lack of security that renters have in the private rented sector. Made up of representatives from across the housing sector, the commission is exploring the issues facing people who rent and options to tackle the rent crisis in the city, including how introducing rent control throughout the city’s private rented sector might be effective.
“We also continue to lobby government in tackling the homelessness crisis and to make the changes that will allow us to support asylum seekers and other people with No Recourse to Public Funds. During the pandemic, we reduced rough sleeping in Bristol by around 80% and need further support from Westminster to do so again.
“Preventing homelessness remains our priority. We continue to work with people who are rough sleeping, reviewing their options and developing individual plans for leaving the streets.
“Working with partners, we offer a range of prevention services, including a welfare rights and money advice service and a Youth Homelessness hub (Bristol Youth MAPS) to help young people to stay with their families where possible.”
A government spokesperson said of the national data: “Councils have a duty to ensure no family is left without a roof over their heads. That is why we’ve given them £366 million this year to help prevent evictions, support to pay deposits and provide temporary housing.
“Temporary accommodation is always a last resort. Over half a million households have been prevented from becoming homeless since 2018 through the Homelessness Reduction Act.
“We are also providing significant support to help people through these tough times by holding down energy bills and delivering up to £1,350 in direct cash payments to millions of vulnerable households.”
To donate to Shelter’s Winter Appeal, visit shelter.org.uk/donate.