A SHARP rise in homelessness in the West Midlands of over 20 per cent in just a year has been revealed by startling new figures.
The alarming in-depth data for 2016/7 has been compiled by respected national homeless charity Shelter.
It has now launched an urgent appeal for action as temperatures drop in the run-up to Christmas.
The statistics reveal 20,900 people in the West Midlands were recorded homeless in the last year, a rise of 22 per cent on the previous year.
In Coventry, the figure is 1,543, a similar figure to the previous year.
In the most extensive review of its kind, the charity combined official rough-sleeping, temporary accommodation and social services figures.
According to the Shelter report, Coventry is currently the second worst affected region in the West Midlands with 1 in every 229 people shown to be homeless.
This compares to 1 in 88 people in Birmingham and 1 in 314 people in Solihull, the first and third worst affected West Midlands areas.
Shelter and other charities say factors include a squeeze on benefits including a freeze on housing benefits, rising rents, lack of affordable housing, and a shortage of houses generally contributing to people being unable to get on the housing ladder.
It is also a pressing national issue with the government’s Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) figures showing the number of people sleeping rough in England rose by 134 per cent between 2010 and 2016.
A Coventry City Council spokesperson told us: “We work closely throughout the year with the Salvation Army and police who engage with any homeless person to help them access hostel accommodation and other services.
“During the winter months, we also work with HOPE Coventry which operates a winter night shelter across the city that any rough sleeper can use.
“If anyone finds themselves homeless, they can visit or call the council’s customer service centre in Upper Precinct or call into the Salvation Army at the Lifehouse in Harnall Lane West.”
Shelter also used statistics obtained by an Freedom of Information request and figures on single homeless hostel bed spaces from Homeless Link’s annual report.
Shelter has launched an urgent appeal in response to the mounting crisis, calling on the public to support its frontline advisers as they work tirelessly to help people to stay in their home or find a new one.
Shelter hub manager Vicky Hines said “On a daily basis, we speak to people and families who are desperately trying to escape the devastating trap of homelessness.
“A trap that is tightening thanks to decades of failure to build enough affordable homes and the impact of welfare cuts.
“As this crisis continues to unfold, the work of our frontline advisers remains absolutely critical.
“We will do all we can to make sure no-one is left to fight homelessness on their own.
“But we cannot achieve this alone; we urgently need the public’s support to be there for everyone who needs us right now.”
To support Shelter’s urgent appeal please visit www.shelter.org.uk or text SHELTER to 70080 to donate £3.