Black people ‘disproportionately represented among those owed homelessness help’

A homeless person sleeping rough in a doorway in Farringdon, London
A homeless person sleeping rough in a doorway in Farringdon, London - (Copyright PA Archive)
17:26pm, Thu 01 Oct 2020
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Black people were the most disproportionately represented ethnic group among households owed homelessness support during the last financial year, new statistics show.

Some 288,470 households were assessed as being owed help from their local council in England during 2019-20, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said.

Of the lead applicants from these households, 10.7% were black, while black people are only estimated to make up 3.6% of England’s population.

Lead applicants of black, mixed and other ethnicities made up 17.3% of applications while accounting for 7.3% of the population.

We know black people are more likely to be homeless or live in overcrowded homes putting them at greater risk from this virus

Almost half of the duties to prevent or relieve homelessness (47.1%) owed to households with a lead applicant represented by minority ethnic groups were from London boroughs.

In London, 32.1% of applications were from black people, which make up 12.4% of the capital’s population.

Shelter said the “deep inequality and systemic racism” within the housing system must be addressed, and the legacy of the coronavirus pandemic must not be one of rising homelessness.

Chief executive Polly Neate said: “It is both telling and appalling to see black people and others who are black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) disproportionately impacted by homelessness.

“We must act fast, because the pandemic we are now enduring is only intensifying the housing emergency and its destructive inequalities.

“We know black people are more likely to be homeless or live in overcrowded homes putting them at greater risk from this virus.

“But right now, the Government is failing to prevent homelessness because it’s not doing enough to increase the number of decent, genuinely affordable, social homes.”

Overall, white and Asian households were less likely to be homeless, with 69.8% of homeless households with a white lead applicant, while white people make up 84.6% of the population.

And Asian lead applicants accounted for 6.3% of the homeless applications, despite making up 8.1% of the population.

The figures also show that around a quarter of households owed help to relieve or prevent homelessness included a person in full or part-time work.

Of the lead applicants from these households, 25.9% (74,580) were in employment and 30.5% (88,030) were registered as unemployed.

The second most common status was households not working due to a long-term illness or disability, the MHCLG said, while 2.6% (7,620) were retired.

The most common age group owed help was 25 to 34-year-olds, accounting for around three in 10 (87,990) households.

This was followed by 35 to 44-year-olds who made up 22.9% of the applications, while 3,050 households (1.1%) had applicants aged 75 and older.

An MHCLG spokesman said: “The Homelessness Reduction Act is ensuring that more people get the help they need to prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place.

“We’re committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness and ending rough sleeping for good, and the Government has allocated over half a billion pounds this year to protect some of the most vulnerable people in society.”

Councillor David Renard, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesman, said: “Councils are doing all they can to make sure everyone gets the housing support they need, however it is clearly a concern that black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people are disproportionately affected by homelessness and we would encourage government to review why this is the case.”

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