Homeless households up by a fifth, figures show
The number of homeless households in England has risen by almost a fifth compared with the same period last year, official figures show.
Some 12,830 families and individuals were newly classed as homeless between 1 October and 31 December 2011.
Charity Shelter said the data was a shocking reminder of "the divide between the housing haves and have nots".
The government said the numbers were lower than 28 of the last 30 years.
The official homelessness figures, which include those in temporary accommodation, show a rise for four quarters in a row.
Of the 12,830 new homeless applicants, some 2,620 had dependent children.
Meanwhile, the figures for 2011 as a whole showed nearly 50,000 families were newly classed as homeless during the year. This is a 14% rise on 2010.'Reckless changes'
Housing Minister Grant Shapps said the new figures underlined that people were still suffering from a "debt-laden economy".
He added: "A strong safety net - bolstered by extra government help and new freedoms for local councils - is ensuring thousands of vulnerable families have a secure roof over their heads."
But shadow housing minister Jack Dromey said the rises resulted from the government's failing economic policies and its "reckless changes in benefits".
He added: "It is an absolute tragedy that in 2012 so many families do not have a home they can call their own.
"The government's economic policies are failing, leading to rising unemployment, increases in fuel bills and the biggest squeeze on family incomes in a generation.
"Combined with the government's reckless changes to benefits, it was inevitable that homelessness would rise and that it will continue to rise."
He called on the government to build 25,000 more affordable homes with funds levied from a tax on bankers bonuses.
Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb called for urgent action to address the country's "broken housing system".'Worst fears'
He added: "Amid growing economic gloom and rising unemployment, increasing numbers of ordinary families are falling victim to our housing crisis.
"Some may be priced out of the housing market, forced to bring up their families in a revolving door of private let after private let.
"Others may have to leave the areas they have always called home, driven out by the cost of housing. And for those we are hearing about in today's figures, the worst has happened, and they have lost their home altogether."
Chief executive of charity Crisis Leslie Morphy said: "Our worst fears are coming to pass. We face a perfect storm of economic downturn, rising joblessness and soaring demand for limited affordable housing combined with government policy to cut housing benefit plus local cuts to homelessness services.
"The results are clear: we have now had two years of rising homelessness, and with the worst of the cuts still to bite we can only predict that homelessness will continue to rise."
But the government said it had made an extra £70m available to councils in the past year to help households facing homelessness. This is on top of a £400m investment in homelessness preventing funding.