How many people are homeless in the UK? And what can you do about it?

There is no doubt that quantifying the scale of homelessness is a challenging task. Homelessness comes in many forms, for starters. Rough sleeping is only one aspect – people are trapped in hostels and shelters as well. A problem like this isn’t always visible. The number of people living at friends’ or relatives’ homes is virtually impossible to count, since many of them do not consider themselves homeless.

Our mission at Secure Social Housing is to prevent homelessness and poverty. The cost of living crisis and lack of affordable private sector housing in the UK have left thousands of households at risk of homelessness. Having a clear picture of how many people are homeless in the UK is crucial – how can you help them if we don’t know?

How many people are homelessness in the UK?

A Crisis survey estimates that 227,000 people in England, Scotland and Wales are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness in 2021 – rough sleeping, living in vans and sheds, and staying at B&Bs. However, homelessness is difficult to measure. It is important to understand that there are many types of homelessness and not all people are accounted for. 

In order to count how many people experience homelessness, councils keep track of how many households that have requested help with homelessness. This is known as statutory homelessness. Between April 2020 and March 2021, English councils prevented or relieved homelessness for 268,560 households.

From January to March 2022, 74,230 households required local council support due to homelessness in England. Those figures represent an increase of 10% over the last three months of 2021, sparking concern over how the cost of living crisis could affect low-income households. The statistics show that renters are particularly vulnerable to eviction, with 6,400 households at risk of ‘no-fault’ evictions – the highest amount since records began in 2018.

Homelessness is largely driven by no-fault evictions, which the Westminster government promised to ban in 2019. Shelter reports that almost 230,000 private renters have received a section 21 notice since then, about one every seven minutes. The upcoming Renters Reform Bill will end no-fault evictions. It is estimated that 2,440 people slept rough in England on a single night in autumn 2021, down 10% from 2,688 people in 2020.

In spite of four straight years of falling numbers, the number of people sleeping rough is 38% higher in 2022 than 12 years ago. Since rough sleeping statistics are based on single-night counts and local estimates, they are often considered a considerable underestimate.

The Salvation Army’s director of homelessness services, Loritta Johnson, said the most recent count should be treated with caution. “These government snapshot figures only cover who was sleeping rough on one particular night in England during the autumn and therefore are limited and should be met with caution,” said Johnson. “The Salvation Army is calling for reforms to data collection, and for more robust figures to be used to measure homelessness in England, much like the quarterly Chain figures for London, so we all have a true scale of reality of rough sleeping across the UK.”

It is believed that the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (Chain) is a more accurate method. With multiple agencies reporting contact with people on the streets over time, this data shows the flow of rough sleeping over time. London is the only city where it operates at the moment.

However, although there has been a decline in the number of people sleeping rough in the past year, their annual figures still show a much higher number of people sleeping rough. In April 2021 to March 2022, 8,239 rough sleepers were seen on London’s streets, a quarter fewer than in April 2021 to March 2021. While hailing the progress, Sadiq Khan warned the cost of living crisis “threatens to reverse these hard-earned gains”.

According to the latest quarterly Chain figures, just under 3,000 people were spotted in the English capital between April and June 2022. Between January and March, those numbers rose by 10%. Many “hidden homeless” people slip through the cracks. According to Crisis, 62% of homeless single people do not appear on official statistics.

Now Is The Time To Act

As part of our duty at Secure Social Housing, we’re doing our best to help combat the housing crisis and home vulernable people over the UK. We have already helped house thousands of people and would like to continue to do so with your help. For more information on how you can help through our range of ethical investment opportunities, please contact us now at or by calling us on +44 (0) 203 9411 880.

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