What will happen to levels of homelessness if we do nothing?

Francesca Albanese, Head of Research and Evaluation

In simple terms they will go up. New Crisis research published today conducted by Heriot--Watt University shows that in 2016 around 160,000 households experienced the most acute forms of homelessness. If we fail to address homelessness this figure will reach 392,000 by 2041.

Termed as core homelessness, this includes rough sleeping, sofa surfing, squatting, people living in hostels and unsuitable forms of temporary accommodation as well as people forced to sleep in cars, tents and night shelters. The analysis has drawn on data from household panel surveys, statutory statistics and academic studies to produce the most up to date estimate of the worst forms of homelessness that often goes undocumented.

What the research tells us is that nearly all forms of core homelessness have increased over the past five years. Using a statistical model, the research has forecast that if current policies continue unchanged, the most acute forms of homelessness are likely to keeping rising, with overall numbers estimated to rise by more than a quarter in the coming decade and two and a half times by 2041. The graph below illustrates the rate at which we can expect core homelessness to go up.

But we know homelessness is not inevitable. Aligned with other studies, the analysis shows that structural causes of homelessness are the main factors driving this change and can be tackled to end it – poverty, the availability and affordability of housing and the extent to which prevention measures are used are all important in explaining how homelessness is currently experienced across Great Britain. The model has also tested different solutions, and increasing housing supply by 60%, cessation of further welfare cuts and maximising a prevention approach could make significant reductions in the predicted levels of homelessness. Whilst we welcome the commitments and progress already made by governments across England, Scotland and Wales to tackle rough sleeping, increasing affordable housing supply and implementing prevention legislation, more needs to be done - both to address the worst forms of homelessness but also for those at risk and living in insecure and unacceptable accommodation.

In Crisis’ 50th anniversary year, we will produce a long term plan showing what it will take to end homelessness for good. In order to do this, we firstly need a complete picture of the scale of the problem across Britain and the underlying drivers that cause it. This research is a starting point to hold us and others to account against our five definitions of what it will mean to end homelessness for good:

  • No one sleeping rough
  • No one forced to live in transient or dangerous accommodation such as tents, squats and non-residential buildings
  • No one living in emergency accommodation such as shelters and hostels without a plan for rapid rehousing into affordable, secure and decent accommodation
  • No one homeless as a result of leaving a state institution such as prison or the care system
  • Everyone at immediate risk of homelessness gets the help they need that prevents it happening


The findings published today are the first of a two part study which is looking at the current and projected levels of homelessness across different categories. The next stage will examine wider forms of homelessness and quantify those at risk of homelessness through circumstances including eviction, in other forms of temporary accommodation and those being discharged form state institutions such as the care system or prisons. We intend to integrate these into the Crisis and Joseph Rowntree Foundation Homelessness Monitor series to track progress over time and measure how we and others are progressing on our commitment to end homelessness.

But we can’t do it alone. Ending homelessness will be a collective effort. We’re bringing together the people, the ideas and the evidence – everything it will take to end homelessness once and for all.

For media enquiries:

E: media@crisis.org.uk
T: 020 7426 3880

For general enquiries:

E: enquiries@crisis.org.uk
T: 0300 636 1967