Britain is suffering a crisis of “hidden homelessness” with an unknown number of people living in shocking conditions in B&Bs and temporary accommodation, a study published today found.
An investigation by think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has revealed a catalogue of exploitation and deprivation faced by people who do not figure on official government homeless statistics.
It includes people locked out of premises from early morning until late evening, cash cards or benefits books “confiscated” by proprietors, people being required to work unpaid and those under threat of eviction.
The study also uncovered vulnerable residents at risk of sexual abuse and exploitation as well as those forced to share rooms with strangers without prior notice or reduction in rent.
Official figures on homelessness are published today. But the which IPPR argues they only identify a fraction of the problem.
A lack of options means many are driven towards what the IPPR calls “the weakest corners of the housing market,” living in bed and breakfasts and temporary “houses in multiple occupation,” with little support to help them into a secure and settled place to live.
The housing conditions and social environments they foster are “typically dreadful.” The IPPR carried out research in Brighton and Manchester, talking to 35 homeless people about their living conditions.
It found 19 people had no lock on their door, 15 had been victims of crime while living in temporary accommodation and 24 had witnessed or experienced violence.
Almost all — 30 participants — reported that their health had been affected by the damp and poorly maintained conditions of temporary accommodation with 22 feeling that the food given or cooking facilities available were inadequate for a healthy diet.
IPPR north research fellow Bill Davies said: “There is very little good statistical data for the hidden homeless. Limited research has been conducted on them and their precarious lives go largely unrecorded by research organisations or public authorities. As a hidden population, their numbers are difficult to estimate, but the scale of the problem is likely to be substantial.”