By Emmanuel Nduka
Rural England is fast plunging into homelessness, as cost of living crisis in the world’s sixth-biggest economy has left many citizens struggling to make ends meet.
Bills for food, energy, rent and mortgages have increased sharply.
A British rural charity said on Tuesday that homelessness in rural England has risen by 40 percent in the last five years with many citizens sleeping in the open air, tents or makeshift shelters.
The G7 nation’s annual inflation hit a 41-year peak of 11.1 percent in October 2022, and while it has come down to 3.9 percent in November, charities say a range of factors – notably cuts to welfare payments in the last decade and a housing shortage – has exacerbated food poverty and homelessness.
The charity adds that homelessness in the countryside had increased from 17,212 in 2018 to 24,143 in 2023, with wages stagnating and housing costs rising in many areas.
“The sharp rise in rural homelessness shows the real-life impact of record house prices, huge waiting lists for social-rent housing and the boom in second homes and short-term lets,” it said.
The charity said 12 local authorities across England –- designated as predominantly rural –- had levels of rough sleeping higher than the national average of 15 people per 100,000.
Boston was England’s worst-affected rural local authority for rough sleeping, the charity said.
It blamed a housing emergency for the crisis and warned that the true figure could be higher due to some “hidden homelessness” such as sofa-surfing.
The Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest food bank network, said last month that the number of food parcel handouts to people in need has risen to “unprecedented levels” as poverty spread across the country.
It said it had provided 1.5 million emergency food parcels to people between April and September 2023 — a 16 percent increase on 2022 and the most it has ever distributed at this point in the year.
“This is the highest number of food parcel handouts we have had to give in six months. We are expecting this to be our worst winter ever,” the charity said.