Increased living costs will lead to more homelessness
We’ve all frowned, grumbled and groaned at the repetitive hikes in energy prices, but besides being more conscious of our usage, we have no choice but to suck it up and accept it. Many can afford to pay the extra costs but for some, that increase is the difference between whether you could afford to buy enough food for your family or not?
For many, that decision will be a reality this winter. In fact, with energy bills rising, Universal Credit being cut, food prices increasing, and the recent end to the furlough scheme, it has been called a ‘]perfect storm for homelessness](https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/kwasi-kwarteng-universal-credit-government-yougov-bbc-b957191.html)’ by some. With 4.3 million people already behind on household bills, and 564,000 people in rent arrears, this is a problem that is only going to get worse.
Any day in any season is a difficult one for those living on the streets, but with the harsh conditions of winter, the struggles of the homeless become exacerbated. But don’t be deceived in thinking that the problem stops on the streets. A recent survey carried out by YouGov on behalf of the housing charity Shelter found that [26% of adult renters in England already say they can’t keep their house warm this winter]''9https://england.shelter.org.uk/media/press_release/living_costs_crisis_1_in_4_renters_cannot_keep_their_home_warm_as_fuel_costs_surge_). Given the ‘perfect storm’ already mentioned, what will this percentage grow to during the winter of 2021/2022?
The government has reacted to the rising level of concerns around the number of vulnerable households that exist in the UK by introducing a £500m support fund. The money is there to help those most in need with essentials over the coming months as the country continues its recovery from the pandemic. However, the approach has come under attack, with Labour calling it a temporary solution and The Joseph Rowntree Foundation think-tank criticising it for not even coming close to meeting the scale of the challenge facing millions of families on low incomes.
In fact, over many years the approach taken by various governments is one of trying to fix a problem rather than prevent it happening in the first place. As crazy as it sounds, the cost of homelessness is huge. Taxpayers’ money is spent trying to tackle the problem every single year; to be precise a Crisis report estimated that a single person sleeping rough in the UK costs £20,128. To put that in context, the 2,688 people believed to be sleeping rough in England during Autumn 2020 would account for a sleeping bill of more than £54m per year!
If someone sleeping rough costs around £20,000 a year, it’s also been found that taking preventative action costs just £1,426. The cost of intervening early on to prevent people from sleeping rough in the first place saves far more expensive interventions further along the line. But with no obvious solution on the horizon, the work of homeless charities has become ever more important.
With the growing concerns over rising homelessness, not just this winter, but beyond, the support provided by the likes of Crisis, Shelter, Centrepoint, The Salvation Army and Emmaus has perhaps never been as valuable. The fundraising, volunteering and financial donations by members of the public have also never been so important. Perhaps you, or someone you know, will be impacted this winter by surging energy prices, Universal Credit cuts, or the end of the furlough scheme. With so many factors influencing people’s ability to keep a roof over their head, sadly none of us are ever far away from those who are struggling, even if it may not be immediately obvious to us.
If you want to make a real difference, then search for homeless charities on Toucan and add them to your portfolio to make a monthly contribution and receive a regular impact statement on the positive effect of your giving.