California’s Bay Area – that bastion of tech-inspired economic inequality – isn’t the only place where the homeless population is being hopelessly undercounted.

A recent study found that the number of homeless people living in the UK is almost 10 times as high as the official statistics reflect. The reason? The government hopelessly undercounts the number of families living in temporary accommodations like bed & breakfasts, according to the Independent.


Many of these people – at least 50,000 of them – have been “forgotten in statistics” that fail to reflect anything close to the true scale of the homelessness crisis in the UK.

The true scale of homelessness in the UK is almost 10 times worse than official figures suggest, according to a new report.

Homeless charity Justlife warns thousands of people are being “forgotten in statistics” after it estimated that at least 51,500 people were living in B&Bs in the year to April 2016 – compared with 5,870 official B&B placements recorded by the government.

It comes after a separate investigation found that 78 homeless people died last winter – an average of at least two a week. The report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed the fatalities included rough sleepers, people recognised as “statutory homeless” and people staying in temporary accommodation.

The organization that conducted the study, Justlife, used data gathered from Freedom of Information requests to various government agencies.

Christa Maciver, author of the report, said: “We can no longer ignore the tens of thousands of people stuck homeless, hidden and ignored in our cities. This report shows there is so much we don’t know and that we really need to be calculating homelessness more accurately.  

“Very few seem to care about the vulnerable people who end up in B&Bs, hostels and guesthouses. Once they are there they are forgotten and it’s almost like we forget they are people.”

“Their mental and physical health gets worse, and many can end up dead, but because they have a roof over their head – no matter how insecure – they are not counted within homelessness, when they should be. Only if we acknowledge the problem will we really be able to start finding solutions.”

The report appears to corroborate another study commissioned by commissioned by a different nonprofit which found that 100,000 households would be living in B&Bs by 2020. One young man interviewed by the Independent offered a chilling account of his experience living in cheap nightly accommodations. 

“I’m totally depressed living there. You can’t have anything nice. Things just go missing.”

“You see, there aren’t working locks on all the doors. In my room there are bare wires hanging out and I have no light. I also feel quite vulnerable because anyone can get in or is let in and it gets me down.”

Megan Lucero, director of Bureau Local, which surveyed dozens of homeless charities, trawled local press reports and pieced together figures to create a database of homeless deaths, said: “Local journalists and charities are often the only ones recording these deaths.”

In response to the study, a government minister said the UK government sets aside more than one billion pounds to help the homeless get “the support they need.”

But, as is the case in the US, the true homelessness crisis isn’t playing out in the country’s streets, where homeless people are difficult to ignore. It’s playing out in cheap motels and bed and breakfasts, where itinerant families are struggling with a constant sense of insecurity as they bounce from establishment to establishment, never scraping together quite enough money to pay rent and a deposit on a permanent place.

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