This time however, the report warns, the use of temporary accommodation is set to rise more rapidly, as people are hit by a combination of benefit freezes, soaring food and energy bills and the end of the evictions ban. A Local Authority official interviewed for the report put it this way: “We are expecting a tidal wave, to put it mildly”.
The government’s pledge to end homelessness by 2024 will not come to pass, in spite of an unprecedented commitment, politically and financially, with the arrival of the pandemic. While the numbers of people sleeping rough were reduced during the roll-out of ‘Everyone-In’, this reduction was not reflected in numbers of people stuck in temporary accommodation. Not surprisingly, the government focused on getting people off the streets in a pandemic where citizens were told to stay at home. But this did not reduce homelessness. On the contrary, the pressures on temporary accommodation have never been higher, forcing Local Authorities to use lower standard accommodation or place people out of area.
Temporary accommodation is not a solution to homelessness
This is an important distinction. There is a tendency to confuse temporary accommodation with a solution to homelessness. Questioned about the findings of The Homelessness Monitor 2022, a Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson told the Guardian:
“…a £316 million homelessness prevention grant will help people who are homeless or at risk of losing their home to find a new one, get help with evictions or move into temporary accommodation.”
The temporary accommodation market is already saturated and unable to keep up with the current need in England, forcing people into the most unsuitable accommodation where there is a risk to basic health and safety. Add to this the shortage of social and affordable housing for people to move on to, and many people are left in what is meant to be temporary for substantial periods of time, sometimes years.
Unsuitable temporary accommodation has adverse effects
The longer someone lives in temporary accommodation, the more adverse long-term impact it can have, including new and repeated trauma, decreasing mental and physical health, isolation and sometimes the higher likelihood of death.
This is not what a solution to homelessness looks like: It is what homelessness and human suffering looks like when it is hidden and out of sight.
As we have recommended before, national government and agencies must include temporary accommodation consistently in plans to address homelessness. Until this happens, the numbers are going to continue to rise. Taking careful note of the tenth Homelessness Monitor would be a good place to start.