Hidden extent of homelessness in the North of England laid bare

  • One in six people have been affected by homelessness in the North of England 
  • Just under half see homeless people in their local area at least once a week 
  • 79% of people in the North of England underestimate or don’t know the scale of homelessness

One in six (18%) people in the North of England have been homeless or have experienced family or close friends without a home of their own, according to new research for Nationwide Building Society.

Just under half (48%) see homeless people in their local area at least once a week, while more than one in five (22%) say they see someone they believe to be homeless in their local area every day.

In addition, over three quarters (77%) of those surveyed believe it is now harder to maintain a stable home than it was a decade ago, with 69 per cent citing generally tougher financial conditions as a barrier to people being able to afford and maintain a decent home in the North. The lack of social housing (49%) and increased demand for property (39%) were also outlined as potential obstacles.

Area Percentage of people surveyed in each area who experienced homelessness
North & East Yorkshire 19%
Teeside 16%
Tyne and Wear 16%
County Durham 13%
Cumbria 12%
Northumberland 7%

Despite this, nearly four in five (79%) of people are unaware or underestimate the true scale of homelessness in the North of England. When asked how many people were homeless across the region, 33 per cent estimated that the level was at or below 10,000. Yet the latest official figures confirm that homelessness across Yorkshire, Humber and the North East currently stands at 16,264 households.

Nationwide’s research also reveals that the vast majority (93%) think homelessness fits the stereotype of sleeping on the street. Others, however, acknowledged that it’s an issue that is not always obvious, with half (54%) acknowledging that sofa surfing with friends or living temporarily in a B & B (45%) are actually forms of so-called ‘hidden homelessness’.

Area Percentage of people surveyed in each area who do not identify living temporarily in a B&B as homeless
North & East Yorkshire 48%
Teeside 51%
Tyne and Wear 47%
County Durham 53%
Cumbria 50%
Northumberland 43%

While the research suggests that two thirds of people believe personal problems are to blame for homelessness, either citing alcohol and drugs (35%) or financial problems such as debt (32%) as the top contributors, studies by the housing charity Shelter into the real causes of homelessness suggests that the most common reasons are family relationships breaking down, domestic violence and loss of an assured tenancy.

Jeff Watson, Nationwide’s Area Director for Northern England, said: ““Helping people into homes of their own is at the heart of what we do as a building society. As the research suggests, however, the problem of homelessness in the North of England is often hidden away. Although many may recognise those sleeping on the street as homeless, those staying with friends or in temporary accommodation can be just as in need of a proper home.

“That’s why we are making funding available for local housing projects supporting ways to help those who are vulnerable and in unaffordable and insecure properties, to ensure everyone has a place fit to call home and make a real difference to local communities.”

The research by Nationwide continues to highlight the many issues around housing facing the North of England, as the UK’s biggest building society makes £250,000 available to help make a difference across communities in the Northern region.

The Society invited applications for grants of up to £50,000 for housing projects that have the potential to strengthen communities and help make a difference in local areas, ranging from innovative new housing, improving conditions, to supporting the most vulnerable. Applications were accepted from the following areas: Northumberland, Tyneside, Wearside, Teesside, Cumbria, County Durham, North and East Yorkshire.

Now Nationwide members will have their say on which projects are supported in their local communities, with a Community Board, which is comprised of members, employees, housing charities and experts, appointed. Nationwide members will then be able to vote, in branch or online, for a shortlist of charities to be awarded up to a maximum of £50,000. The Board and Nationwide branches within the region will also be providing time, contacts and expertise to these charities.

Voting is due to open next week and close on 17 November. Website: www.nationwide.co.uk/about/why-choose-nationwide/social-investment/community-grants

Notes to editors:

1. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size of the North of England was 505 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 25th - 28th September 2017. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults in the North of England (aged 18+). When surveying specific areas within the North, total sample size was 1002 adults (Tyne and Wear 178, Teeside 200, Country Durham 254, Cumbria 172, East Riding and North of Yorkshire 227, Northumberland 171). Fieldwork was undertaken between 25th September - 2nd October 2017. The survey was carried out online.

2. Respondents from specific areas in the North were surveyed separately.

3. Source: DCLG Homelessness Statistics via Shelter Databank
Nationwide has been a partner of Shelter for the last 16 years.

What Nationwide has done to ensure everyone has a place to call home:

Over the last five years, Nationwide helped 958,000 people into a home of their own, against a target of 750,000

Helping people into a home of their own is not just about buying a house, it is about having a safe and comfortable place to call home. Nationwide does this by helping first time buyers, providing buy to let lending to support the rental market and working in partnership with charities. In 2016/2017:

  • Continued the work with housing and homeless charity Shelter to help 17,000 people into a home of their own. Since 2012, 44,000 people have been helped against a target of 16,000. This includes interventions when people are at risk of losing their homes and helping vulnerable people find and keep a home. 
  • Partnered with Elderly Accommodation Counsel to enable 5,600 older people to stay in their own homes through supporting its ‘Live Safely and Well at Home’ campaign and its UK telephone advice service. 
  • Working with military communities to make it easier for them to access a mortgage and a home. This work was recognised when the Society received a ‘Gold’ award from the MOD in its Employer Recognition Scheme.

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

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