Homeless Link’s 2021 Annual Review of Single Homelessness Support in England has revealed that there are 39% fewer accommodation providers and 26% fewer bed spaces for people experiencing homelessness than in 2010.

Other key findings include that:

  • There are 7% fewer day centre services than in 2010
  • 43% of accommodation projects supported an increasing number of people experiencing homelessness for the first time in 2021
  • Lack of available social housing was the main barrier to people moving on from homelessness

The number and capacity of homelessness services has declined steeply since 2010, limiting the support options available despite an increase in people experiencing rough sleeping over the same period, according to Homeless Link’s 2021 Annual Review of Single Homelessness Support in England.

There are 39% fewer accommodation providers than in 2010, at 893 (down from 1,461), while the number of homelessness day centres has dropped by 7% to 173. Both have fallen 2% since 2020, the Annual Review shows.

The number of bed spaces for people experiencing homelessness has fallen by 26% over the past eleven years from 43,655 to 32,184, although it saw a marginal increase in 2021 of 0.4%.

In addition, critical barriers to accessing a range of external services are preventing people from receiving crucial support. Mental health services were the hardest to access, with nine in ten services stating their clients encountered barriers – primarily waiting lists. Most day centres also reported that their clients had difficulties accessing accommodation with 70% of accommodation providers saying they refused access due to lack of bed spaces.

Further increasing the pressure on services, a lack of move-on options is leaving people trapped in homelessness accommodation longer than they need to be, with four in ten providers stating that over 50% of their residents were waiting over six months to move on.

A lack of social housing was seen as the biggest cause of the logjam, with 87% of accommodation providers reporting this was a barrier to people moving on from homelessness.

While service capacity has declined, fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic pushed more people into homelessness, a trend which is likely to be worsened by the current cost-of-living crisis. Compared to the previous year, 43% of accommodation providers saw increases in people experiencing homelessness for the first time, 31% supported more people currently in low paid jobs, including zero-hour contracts and 30% supported more people who recently lost their job.

Rick Henderson, Chief Executive of Homeless Link, comments: “The continued erosion of support options for single people experiencing homelessness is extremely worrying and simply does not tally with the high levels of rough sleeping and homelessness in this country.

“The knock-on effects of Covid-19 meant that services increasingly found themselves supporting people who were experiencing homelessness for the first time or in low paid jobs, and sadly we fear that this is only going to get worse as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite.

“Homelessness services are doing everything they can to provide a huge variety of vital support to people pushed into homelessness, under significant pressure. While they have received investment in the form of the Rough Sleeping Initiative, the Winter Transformation Fund and other pandemic spending, we need to ensure that investment keeps pace with demand.

“It is imperative that, under the new Prime Minister, the Government heeds the warning signs and acts decisively to prevent more services from closing their doors, alongside help offered to individuals.

“We need sufficient and sustainable funding for services, including investment in homelessness prevention, and a commitment to the Renters’ Reform Bill, so that we can build a stronger society that works for everyone.”