By Matthew Ponsford
LONDON, Oct 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain faces a ticking time bomb of old people sleeping rough, with more than 200 elderly people becoming homeless each month and their numbers set to spiral, local councils said in a report released on Friday.
The councils said the emergence of homelessness among the over-60s reflected the weak state of the economy, with a vulnerable new part of the population joining a homeless community made up of mostly young Britons.
Between April and June this year, more than 600 people aged over 60 were made homeless - more than twice the rate of 2009, said a report by the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents local government authorities in England and Wales.
Unless urgent action is taken, this rate is set to double again by 2025, said Izzi Seccombe, chair of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board.
"Traditionally, homelessness is associated with young people and it is a tragic fact that a person suffering homelessness lives to an average age of only 47," said Seccombe.
"But we are facing a ticking time bomb in older homelessness, with an alarming rise in the number of older people becoming homeless. While the actual numbers are relatively low, at the current rate, this will spiral in just a few years," she said in a statement.
The report, compiled by more than 370 local authorities, said rapidly rising rents and stagnating earnings were responsible for the increase.
Average British house prices have more than doubled in the past two decades, far outstripping wage increases.
LGA said the government must confront the under-supply in specialist housing for older people and lift restrictions that prevent councils from borrowing money to build.
A government spokesman said it was aware of the particular challenges of older homelessness, including the need for expert help to prevent people ever falling into homelessness.
"That's why we're spending 550 million pounds ($728.97 million) until 2020 to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, as well as supporting the Homelessness Reduction Act," he said.
British Prime Minister Theresa May last week said the government would lend councils two billion pounds ($2.7 billion) to create 25,000 new affordable homes and help fix what she said was a broken market.
The report said older people experiencing homelessness were also more likely to suffer from mental illness or depression.
Councils said they are increasingly encountering older people with complex physical and mental health problems, such as alcohol and gambling problems that can lead to homelessness.
While there is an understanding of the link between homelessness and mental health for young people, less is known about how such events as the death of a close relative and breakdown of relationships impact homelessness in later life, it added.