Homeless at Christmas: 14,947 children in temporary housing in local boroughs

Homeless family in temporsry accomodation Pic: C4 news

In an examination of the poverty crises affecting people this Christmas, Celine Wadhera looks at how prevalent child homelessness is in Eastlondonlines boroughs.

One in sixteen children in Lewisham and Tower Hamlets are homeless and living in temporary accommodation, according to data released this week by housing charity, Shelter. This is dramatically higher than the one in 24 children in temporary accommodation across the capital, and one in 100 across England.

Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter said: “Day in, day out we see the devastating impact the housing emergency is having on children across the country. They are being uprooted from friends; living in cold, cramped B&Bs and going to bed at night scared by the sound of strangers outside.”

She continued, that the figures on child homelessness should serve as a “sharp reminder that political promises about tackling homelessness must be turned into real action.”

Lewisham is the worst out of the four boroughs, having experienced a ten per cent increase in child homelessness over the past year, with 4,368 children currently living in temporary accommodation; the borough now ranks as the sixth worst local authority for child homelessness across the country.

In Hackney, one in seventeen children are in temporary accommodation, and Croydon is on par with the London average for child homelessness.

Tower Hamlets ranks seventh, witnessing a five per cent increase in children in temporary accommodation over 2018 figures, and Hackney ranks ninth with a nine per cent rise.

Across the four boroughs, Shelter estimates that there are 14,947 homeless children.   

A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council told Eastlondonlines: “While these numbers may seem alarming, it is important to distinguish between rough sleeping – which is what many people will think of when they hear about homelessness – and temporary accommodation for families.”

Tower Hamlets have not recorded anyone under 18 rough sleeping in the borough over the last eight months.

Regarding the rise in children in temporary accommodation in Hackney, a council spokesperson said that there had been a 40 per cent increase in the number of households approaching the council for help since 2018.

Rebecca Rennison, Hackney Cabinet Member for Finance and Housing told Eastlondonlines: “Despite being one of the biggest homebuilders in London, we cannot meet the scale of the current demand.”

Croydon is the only Eastlondonlines borough that has improved its performance in the past year, moving from the 22nd worst local authority in all of England, to the 26th. This has reduced the number of children in temporary accommodation by nearly 30 per cent.

A Croydon Council spokesperson told Eastlondonlines that the council had been working hard to prevent homelessness across the borough by “matching good private landlords with vulnerable families who might otherwise struggle to keep their tenancy, buying 250 top-quality family homes to ease pressure on the housing waiting list and supporting thousands of families to improve their finances.”

Despite this, Croydon and Hackney Council acknowledged that the housing crisis is ongoing, and said that it has been difficult to manage the rise in homelessness within the current era of austerity.

Rennison told Eastlondonlines: “We will continue to do all we can to support Hackney families but we have to see meaningful reform from central Government, including returning Local Housing Allowance to its previous levels so that families can afford a place to call home.”

Lewisham Councillor Paul Bell echoed Rennison’s concerns; he told Eastlondonlines: “We are suffering a crisis of homelessness and local authorities are dealing with it along with a massive cut to our budget.”

Lewisham Council were contacted but did not provide a comment by the time of publication.

Shelter estimates that there are 135,000 homeless children living in temporary accommodation across the country, and has launched an urgent appeal to support children and families facing homelessness this Christmas.

Anyone wishing to donate can visit www.shelter.org.uk or text SHELTER to 70030 to donate £3.

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