“The “hidden crisis” of rural homelessness requires urgent attention from the government, a leading thinktank has said after research revealed a dramatic rise in the number of rough sleepers in countryside areas in the last five years.
The Institute for Public Policy Research warned that it is particularly hard to prevent or relieve because of the difficulties in covering larger areas and the lack of specialist resources compared to cities.
The report, Right to home? Rethinking homelessness in rural communities, finds the promotion of the countryside as a “rural idyll” where people go to escape the city and have a better life could “mask” the presence of households at risk of becoming homeless or already without a roof over their heads.
The research – which was commissioned by Hastoe, a leading rural specialist housing association – found that 6,270 households were accepted as homeless in 91 mainly or largely rural local authorities in England in 2015-16, an average of 1.3 in every 1,000 households.
A fifth of all homeless cases occurred outside of England’s most urban areas. From 2010 to 2016, “mainly rural” local authorities recorded a 32% rise in cases of homelessness. In areas that are “largely rural” there has been a leap of 52%, and an almost doubling in “urban areas with significant rural” (97%).
… Preventing and relieving homelessness can be especially difficult in rural areas, Snelling said, because of a relative absence of emergency hostels and temporary accommodation, large travel distances with limited public transport, isolated and dispersed communities, and constrained resourcing for specialist services.
Snelling said: “Rural homelessness often goes undetected but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening and unless you tackle the difficulties in delivering services in rural areas and finding affordable homes, it will continue to be a problem.”
Jacob Quagliozzi, director for Housing Justice England, a Christian housing charity, said there has been a rise in churches and community groups contacting them for advice on setting up night shelters in their buildings.
The demand for emergency accommodation provision has seen “substantial growth” outside of the big cities, Quagliozzi said.
… The report also recommends that local authorities should enter into two-way negotiations with the government to develop devolution deals on housing and planning in which ambitious commitments to increasing affordable supply should be met with a transferral of power to do so.