More than 170,000 households are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness as increasing numbers of people are sleeping rough in their cars, Crisis has revealed.

The homeless charity’s latest figures show the number of those sleeping in cars, tents and on public transport has doubled in five years.

For every one person sleeping rough on the street, there is another living in a car or a tent, the figures suggest.

Publishing its findings today, Crisis said the scale of homelessness was 13% higher last year than in 2012, with the number of people declared homeless increasing every year between 2012 and 2017.

Crisis insisted the underlying causes of homelessness could only be tackled by changes in government policy.

The government said it is investing £1.2bn to alleviate the problem.

Scale of homelessness: What Crisis discovered

– 38,000 people under the age of 25 and 4,200 people over the age of 65 are estimated to be homeless

– 170,800 households – a lone person or a group living at the same address – are experiencing the most extreme forms of homelessness.

This includes sofa-surfing, living in hostels and rough sleeping

– 12,300 people are sleeping rough

– Nearly 12,000 people are sleeping in cars or tents

– 21,000 people are living in unsuitable temporary accommodation

Over the past five years, these types of precarious living situations are believed to have increased by around 100%, Crisis said.

Crisis’s chief executive Jon Sparkes said: ‘Christmas can be an incredibly difficult time for people who are homeless.

‘While others are celebrating with family and friends, homeless people face a daily struggle just to stay safe and warm.

‘While rough sleeping is the most visible form of homelessness, for every person on our streets there are another 12 families or individuals experiencing other terrible situations like sofa-surfing and living in cramped B&Bs.’

The report, carried out by Heriot-Watt University, also gives an insight into the diversity of the problem, saying there are 4,200 people aged 65-plus and 38,000 under 25s who are homeless.

It was published after official statistics showed nearly 600 homeless people died last year, a rise of almost a quarter over five years.

On average they were dying at the age of 44 – a life expectancy nearly half that for people in stable housing – because of high rates of suicide, drug poisonings and alcohol-related issues.

Crisis is calling on governments to tackle the root causes of homelessness, which it attributes to a lack of social housing, welfare payments failing to cover private rents and a lack of homelessness prevention schemes.

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