Homelessness has fallen in England say Shelter! What dangerous planet is Polly Neate on?

Did you know Shelter assert homeless numbers have fallen in England over the last 4 years? By nearly 6,000 in England Shelter assert too! Ye Gods!

Last week Shelter released their estimate of homeless person numbers in England and gave their 271,000 estimate on any given night to ITV News and Daniel Hewitt to broadcast to the nation.  In 2018 the same Shelter estimate was England had 276,925 homeless persons on any given night. 

Shelter’s own figures show a reduction in homeless person numbers in England, a perverse issue which sees Shelter’s own latest homeless figures have no credibility whatsoever.  Scrutinise Shelter’s figure by barely scratching the surface and we see just how perverse and incredulous they are.

For example Shelter’s latest estimate asserts that England’s single homeless hostel rooms have just a 47.6% occupancy rate and 52.4% and thus the majority of single homeless hostel bed lay empty and unused on any given night! 

England has 32,184 single homeless hostel beds according to Homeless Link and a figure that is official as government funds Homeless Link to produce this data every year with this being the latest release from August 2022.  Shelter however asserts that 15,239 of these (47.6%) are occupied on any given night which means Shelter assert that 16,855 of them lay empty on any given night.

The latest Shelter estimate is not just disingenuous it is downright dangerous as the homeless hostel figures reveal starkly as average occupancy rates there typically exceed 95%,

  • Will local decision makers, councils, councillors, commissioners take these Shelter figures and say the majority of hostel beds lay empty so why the hell are we funding them?  Bet your life they will!
  • Will local decision makers and the zealous Housing First advocates use these Shelter figures to say the hostel model has failed as justification for yet more Housing First initiatives that never have and never can work in English housing conditions?  Bet your life they will!
  • Will all homeless actors including government use these figure to say there are 16,855 homeless hostel beds lay empty every night and we have 2,440 rough sleepers.  Thus, there is enough provision so anyone sleeping rough is rough sleeper choice not a housing supply problem?  You bet they f*cking will!

I could go on but the above are just three main reasons why the Shelter estimate of England’s homeless person numbers is extremely dangerous and not just disingenuous twaddle. 

I could ask on what planet is Polly Neate the chief executive of Shelter residing on? 

I could ask why Daniel Hewitt of ITV News who has done so much credible work on social housing disrepair and social landlord apathy towards tenants decided not to even take the simple comparison between the latest Shelter estimate and previous ones. 

His credibility and that of ITV News is called into question as much as Shelter’s reputation and credibility for these wholly disingenuous and extremely dangerous figures that ITV News chose to report without any journalistic scrutiny as to the validity of them. Indeed ITV News emphasised that homeless numbers have increased by 74% over the last ten years as the screenshot from this ITV News special bulleting reveals…

Instead, I will simply and objectively report the factual data with sources below.

The 2018 Shelter estimate (source here) said

The 2018 estimate of 320k was for Great Britain with England having 276,925 of that figure

The Shelter 2022 report released 2023 here said

Comparing like for like with figures for England only is a near 6,000 reuducti0on in the numbers of homeless persons – according to Shelter’s own figures – from 2018 to 2022!

[NB: Both the 2018 and 2022 Shelter figures said “at least” so its emphasis in its 2022 news release is of no consequence]

The Homeless Link homeless hostel numbers here said in its latest Aug 2022 report

Highlighted is the 32,184 ‘official’ number (and the 26.3% decrease since 201o)

The Shelter 2022 report and its 15,329 single homeless hostel number here

Note well that this category is objective not subjective as the other fout Shelter categories – The number living in single homeless hostels on any given night not who referred them but the objective number of residents

The Shelter 2022 report on rough sleeper numbers as you can see is 2,440 on any given night and alongside the objective number of 15,329 single homeless hostel beds being occupied out of the official number of 32,184. My comments as to will decision-makers or politicians say 2440 rough sleepers and 16,855 empty hostel beds [32,184 minus 15,329 Shelter figure] that we don’t have a shortage!

The more than doubling of rough sleepers under the Housing First model in Finland

Crisis fervently claim that Finland has reduced homelessness (it has) then state Finland operates Housing First (it does) then scream the chronic non sequitur that Housing First works. In Finland and the latest official figures every form of homelessness has fallen EXCEPT for the one area in which the Housing First model is used – what Finland labels those ‘outside’ and what we label as ‘rough sleeper’ in the UK. The official Finnish report and its table relevant to rough sleepers

We can chart this in a much simpler table as below:

In the last two years rough sleeper numbers in Finland who use the Housing First model has increased from 512 to 1210 – an increase of 136% – and the total number is back where it was 10 years ago in Finland and despite all other areas and all other homeless cohorts reducing! I first looked at a Housing First service (and model) in 1995 and followed its efficacy ever since and nowhere in the world has the Housing First model ever worked at scale or sustainably.

The fact that Shelter appears to, like Crisis, push the UK down this unworkable path for single homeless cohorts by its assertion that over half of single homeless hostel beds lay emoty each night is acutely irresponsible and extremely dangerous.

Other related issues

The Homeless Link figures say the 32,184 hostel room / bed number is a 26.3% reduction since 2010.  This means a fall of nearly 8,000 homeless hostel beds since 2010 and however moot the rough sleeper numbers are it is the closure and decommissioning of single homeless hostel beds that has had a much greater role in the increased numbers of rough sleepers than anything else is the only logical deduction. 

Local authority commissioners who have cut support funding to all supported housing services by around 80% since 2003 which includes NIMBY services like hostels are acutely responsible for the increases in single homelessness, increase in rough sleeping numbers and the increase in non-commissioned ‘exempt accommodation’ services of which many accommodate single homeless persons.  (NB: Exempt accommodation services total numbers have fallen from 170k in 2010 to a claimed 159k in 2022 yet the 40,000 non-commissioned in the 170k 2010 estimate has without doubt increased)

The principal issue is the ‘commissioning process’ a part of Localism which sees central government assert that local councils know local needs best is a sham. 

For example Birmingham City Council the leading ‘outraged’ LA in the ‘exempt accommodation’ outrage charade and who freely state 11k of the 22k in exempt accommodation in Birmingham are locals yet they choose to support-fund by commissioning just 2k of them. 

The commissioning process together with no legal right at all to housing-related support allows LAs to ‘commission’ not on the basis of need but on the basis of how much can we not fund housing-related support and how much can we save.  Birmigham City Council chooses to NOT support-fund 9,000 of the 11,000 ‘locals’ in exemot accommodation and is allowed to NOT fund 81% of its admitted and local vulnerable single persons!

The feigned outrage at the increase in non-commissioned ‘exempt accommodation’ is a direct response to LAs cutting 80% of housing related support funding and a natural consequence. The Homeless Link data showing a 39% drop in hostel support providers (those who were commissioned?) has been almost met by the rise in non-commissioned providers in short

In these contexts now factor in and reconsider the extrem danger of Shelter asserting that the majority of homeless hostel beds for single persons lay empty each night! 

WTF are you playing at Polly Neate and Shelter!

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