Crisis engaged ‘mystery shoppers’ with personal experience of homelessness to test the services of 16 local councils across England.
The report shows that many homeless people get little or no help from their council because they are not considered a ‘priority’ – meaning the council has no legal duty to house them. In many cases even those with learning difficulties or victims of domestic violence are being turned away without help.
In 50 out of 87 council visits (57%) shoppers received little or no help. Across the country, this is likely to mean thousands of homeless people turned away with nothing.
In response to the findings, Crisis is launching a public petition and campaign – No One Turned Away – calling for action from the three main political parties so that all homeless people can get the help they need.
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “Life on the streets is devastating and no one should have to go through it. Yet even in the 21st century, homeless people who ask their council for help are being turned away to sleep on the streets – cold, desperate and forgotten. This is nothing short of a scandal. On top of the human cost, it is incredibly expensive for society, which has to pick up the pieces.
“Everyone deserves a second chance, yet too often the door is slammed in people’s faces, leaving them with nowhere else to turn. That’s why Crisis is calling on party leaders to review the support given to single homeless people under the law. In this day and age, no one should be abandoned to the streets.”
The report provides an often grim picture of council homelessness services. While some councils offered a good quality of service, problems were widespread, with London performing particularly poorly compared to other regions. Although housing pressures are greater in the capital, there were instances of better performance, suggesting that culture, training and resources play a major role.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “It’s shocking to think that anyone who loses their home after a job loss or fleeing domestic violence would have the door shut on them when they ask for help. But tragically we know from our own frontline staff that this is fast becoming a sad reality not only for single people but many homeless families across the country too.
“As councils continue to feel the squeeze on their finances, and the number of affordable homes dwindles, many are being forced to make even tougher decisions on who they can and can’t help.
“Right now councils need more realistic budgets to make sure that every homeless person or family who needs help can get it. And in the long-run if we want to end homelessness for good politicians have to commit to building the genuinely affordable homes that we desperately need.”