UK response to homelessness “an abject failure”: report

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LONDON, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) — A committee of British House of Commons lawmakers said in a report Wednesday that the level of homelessness in England was a national crisis.

The Public Accounts Committee report said urgent need for joined-up strategy to help people and address underlying causes of homelessness, with 78,000 households currently described as homeless. The extent of homelessness across England is a national crisis, said the hard-hitting report.

“It is appalling that at any one time there are as many as 9,100 people sleeping rough on our streets. More than 78,000 households, including over 120,000 children, are homeless and housed in temporary accommodation, which can often be of a very poor standard,” it added.

It says that in addition there are “hidden homeless” people who are housed by family and friends in shifting circumstances, but not captured as part of the official figures.

The report concluded that in addition the attitude of the government department has been unacceptably complacent.

“Homelessness can be a devastating blight on the lives of those who experience it: the average rough sleeper dies before the age of 50, and children in long term temporary accommodation miss far more schooling than their peers,” says the report.

It adds that the homelessness crisis has been growing for some time — since 2010 the number of households in temporary accommodation, for example, has increased by more than 60 percent, and since March 2011 the number of people who sleep rough has risen by 134 percent.

The Department for Communities and Local Government’s attitude, the committee adds, to reducing homelessness has been unacceptably complacent. The limited action that it has taken has lacked the urgency that is so badly needed and its “light touch” approach to working with the local authorities tackling homelessness has clearly failed.

The Department is placing great reliance on the new Homelessness Reduction Act to provide the solution to homelessness.

Committee Chair, Meg Hillier MP said, “The government must do more to understand and measure the real-world costs and causes of homelessness and put in place the joined-up strategy that is so desperately needed.”

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