New research lifts the lid on the “hidden crisis” of rural homelessness

New research out today – commissioned by Hastoe from the leading progressing think tank the IPPR – exposes hidden crisis of rural homelessness.
Usually considered an urban phenomenon, rural homelessness is getting worse, with over 6,000 rural households becoming homeless last year and record numbers of rural families in bed and breakfasts.

In response, Hastoe – the leading rural specialist housing association – is calling for policy makers to recognise the specific challenges of tackling homelessness in the countryside and take action to provide targeted advice and support.

  • In 2015/16, 6,270 households were accepted as homeless in England’s 91 mainly and largely rural local authorities, with one-fifth of all homeless cases occurring outside of England’s most urban areas;
  • Between 2010 to 2016, predominantly rural local authorities recorded a 42 per cent increase in rough sleeping;
  • Many cases of homelessness in rural areas go undetected, with people more likely to bed down in alternative countryside locations. Similarly, difficulties accessing local authority services can mean households aren’t counted in official records.
While the causes of homelessness are often similar in urban and rural areas and usually linked to family breakdown, the ending of a private tenancy or financial hardship, services to tackle homelessness are very much concentrated in urban areas – leaving rural communities to fend for themselves.

Commenting on the research, Sue Chalkley (Chief Executive of Hastoe Group) said: “It is clear from this report that homelessness manifests differently across the country and solutions used to tackle it in urban areas may not be the right approach for those in our rural towns and villages.

“Even a basic understanding of the number of rural people who are homeless, or sleeping rough, is often pitifully low. The stigma of being visibly homeless in rural communities can be much stronger than in a city and, as a result, many will be bedding down tonight in hidden locations like outhouses, barns, tents and parked cars – making it much harder for traditional “head counts” to identify them.

“And it isn’t only rough sleeping that is such a problem. Worryingly, since the middle of 2014 the number of families having to live in a B&Bs in rural local authority areas has risen by an appalling 500%, compared to a 200% rise in urban areas. The numbers are still rising in rural areas while in our towns and cities the numbers have been falling for the last year.”

Download a copy of the report here: Right to home? Rethinking homelessness in rural communities

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