New research has shown growing numbers of people are being forced to sleep in barns and other farm outbuildings as rural homelessness surges.
The study, commissioned by Hastoe, a leading rural housing association, found over 6,000 rural households were made homeless last year alone and rural councils recorded a 42 per cent increase in rough sleeping between 2010-2016.
Record numbers of rural families are also living in bed and breakfasts.
The causes of homelessness are often similar in urban and rural areas – family breakdown, the ending of a private tenancy or financial problems – but services to tackle the problem tend to be concentrated in cities, leaving those in the countryside to fend for themselves.
Sue Chalkley, chief executive of Hastoe Group, said: “It is clear from this report that homelessness manifests differently across the country and solutions used to tackle it in urban areas may not be the right approach for those in our rural towns and villages.
“Even a basic understanding of the number of rural people who are homeless, or sleeping rough, is often pitifully low.
“The stigma of being visibly homeless in rural communities can be much stronger than in a city and as a result, many will be bedding down tonight in hidden locations like outhouses, barns, tents and parked cars, making it much harder for traditional head counts to identify them.
“It is not only rough sleeping which is a problem. Worryingly, since the middle of 2014, the number of families having to live in B&Bs in rural local authority areas has risen by an appalling 500 per cent, compared to a 200 per cent rise in urban areas.
“The numbers are still rising in rural areas while in our towns and cities the numbers have been falling for the last year.”
The new research followed a study from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) which showed the lower-paid were being locked out of the countryside by ‘shady’ developers.