Chronic increase of ‘hidden’ homelessness in the countryside fuelled by cost-of-living crisis

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

A year-long study exposes a surge in rural rough sleeping since the pandemic has been worsened by the cost-of-living crisis.

The countryside is battling a ‘hidden homelessness’ crisis driven by soaring housing costs and a gaping shortfall in local authority funding, a new report shows.

The true scale of the crisis is likely to be far higher than the official statistics. The year-long study, which included a survey of 157 frontline support workers, service providers, NGOs, and shelters, found an overwhelming majority thought rural homelessness was a serious problem that was getting worse.

Key findings include:

  • 91% of respondents in rural areas have seen homelessness increase in the past five years
  • 83% of respondents in rural areas said their job had become harder in the past five years
  • 81% of respondents believe that rough sleeping is experienced differently in rural areas compared to urban areas

The study, by academics at the University of Kent and the University of Southampton, on behalf of a coalition of rural charities and housing associations, including Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) shows rural areas being paid a fraction of what they need to tackle homelessness in their communities. Overall, rural local authorities are receiving 65% less in funding per capita through the Homelessness Prevention Grant than urban areas, who are themselves chronically underfunded. The sharp discrepancy in financial aid, discovered in statistics released by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, shows urban local authorities were paid £7.15, compared to just £2.50 paid to rural local authorities when calculated on a like-for-like basis.

Download the report here.