A housing emergency
Birmingham is in the grips of a housing emergency. One in every 80 people are homeless in the city. In England, 2,400 people are sleeping rough on any given night, 15,000 people are in hostels or supported accommodation and nearly 250,000 are living in temporary accommodation – most of whom are families. More than 14,000 Brummies are living in grim temporary accommodation, including over 8,000 children.
Temporary accommodation (which can take the form of emergency hostels, B&Bs, one room bedsits and cramped flats) is provided by councils to qualifying families who are experiencing homelessness. It is designed to be just that: temporary. However, with a chronic shortage of social housing, some families are finding themselves living in temporary accommodation for years, and are very often asked to move several times with short notice. In England, more than two-thirds of families (68%) living in temporary accommodation have been there for over a year.
It’s a huge and important issue in Birmingham and across the UK, but it’s often hidden from view and many people aren’t aware of it. That’s why Shelter has teamed up with our national charity partner IKEA, to highlight the scale and reality of the issue. Together, we’ve created ‘Real Life Roomsets’ in a number of IKEA stores across the UK, including IKEA Hammersmith, Bristol, Warrington and Birmingham.
What are roomsets?
The roomsets, which are a stark contrast to those found in IKEA’s famously inspiring and well-designed showrooms, are based on real stories of people local to the stores involved. Each roomset highlights the cramped, dangerous and genuinely unpleasant spaces that an increasing number of people who become homeless are forced to experience when living in temporary accommodation.
The Real Life Roomset in the IKEA Wednesbury store is actually a direct replica of the conditions that Brummie local, Claire, experienced in the city. Claire and her three children have been homeless since December 2021 after an abusive relationship forced them to leave their home. Claire had been living in a homelessness centre since March 2021 and was later moved to a ground floor maisonette, which was a shared flat, but was uninhabitable.
Claire describes how they carried all the stuff down into the new flat and when they got in there they were hit with a bad smell – as if farm animals had lived there. Paper was falling off the walls, there was dirt everywhere, broken cupboards and blood and faeces stains on mattresses. Clare was devastated to see her two-year-old crawling all over the dirty carpet and her ten-year-old son crying at the sight of it.
Real Life Roomsets
‘Real Life Roomsets’ comes as part of IKEA and Shelter’s campaign demanding 90,000 social homes to be built a year by 2030 to help address the housing emergency, which 59% of adults in the UK believe is worse than ever.
IKEA is also joining Shelter’s campaign to amend the Levelling up and Regeneration Bill with a new Infrastructure Levy, to ensure all new truly affordable homes are social housing.
It’s clear that a grotty hostel or B&B is not a home, but this is the reality for too many families stuck in temporary accommodation. Seeing these grim, very real living situations that families who become homeless are having to face in a store where many of us go for interiors inspiration, is a fascinating and thought-provoking move which I know many customers have been really intrigued by.
With rents at an all-time high and no end to the cost-of-living crisis in sight, at Shelter we’re very worried that more people are going to become homeless this year. We really hope that the Real Life Roomsets will help raise awareness of the living conditions that too many people in the UK are facing, and in turn join us in calling for the government to build a new generation of good quality social housing that people can actually afford to live in.
‘Real Life Roomsets’ will also see the launch of a series of initiatives to help those affected by the housing emergency in local communities and beyond, aiming to increase access to support and opportunities.
To read more about IKEA and Shelter’s long-term partnership and ‘Real Life Roomsets’ – including IKEA and Shelter’s downloadable campaign toolkit that provides an overview of how to join the campaign for more social housing, visit their website.