Older Britons joining army of young homeless: report

Thomson Reuters Foundation, LONDON

Sat, Oct 14, 2017 - Page 10

Britain faces a ticking time bomb of older people sleeping rough, with more than 200 older people becoming homeless each month and their numbers set to spiral, local councils said in a report released yesterday.

The councils said the emergence of homelessness among the over-60s reflected the weak state of the economy, with a vulnerable new part of the population joining a homeless community made up of mostly young Britons.

From April to June this year, more than 600 people aged over 60 were made homeless — more than twice the rate of 2009, said a report by the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents local government authorities in England and Wales.

Unless urgent action is taken, this rate is set to double again by 2025, said Izzi Seccombe, chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board.

“Traditionally, homelessness is associated with young people and it is a tragic fact that a person suffering homelessness lives to an average age of only 47,” Seccombe said.

“But we are facing a ticking time bomb in older homelessness, with an alarming rise in the number of older people becoming homeless. While the actual numbers are relatively low, at the current rate, this will spiral in just a few years,” she said in a statement.

The report, compiled by more than 370 local authorities, said rapidly rising rents and stagnating earnings were responsible.

The government must confront the under-supply in specialist housing for older people and lift restrictions that prevent councils from borrowing money to build, the LGA said.

A government spokesman said it was aware of the particular challenges of older homelessness, including the need for expert help to prevent people ever falling into homelessness.

“That’s why we’re spending £550 million [US$731.67 million] until 2020 to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, as well as supporting the Homelessness Reduction Act,” he said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May last week said the government would lend councils £2 billion to create 25,000 new affordable homes and help fix what she said was a broken market.