For every two people seen sleeping on the streets of Swindon, it’s estimated there are 98 others in shelters, bed and breakfasts and temporary accommodation councillors have been told.

Kathryn Hamilton, who works in Swindon Borough Council’s housing department, said that was national research that can be applied to the town. She says across the country homelessness has risen by 165 per cent since 2010.

In Swindon 70 per cent of households in temporary accommodation because they are homeless have children.

Ms Hamilton told the council’s health and wellbeing board the causes of homelessness were complex, and research in Swindon showed significant links between mental health issues, drug and alcohol problems, offending and getting out of prison and homelessness.

She said: “The main reasons for someone becoming homeless are that friends or family are no longer willing to provide accommodation, or a non-violent relationship breakdown or the loss of private rented accommodation.”

Councillor Brian Ford asked about how cases were prioritised, saying some people want to be homeless.

He said: “There’s a young man in my village who prefers to live in the woods. He should be offered help but further down the line than a family with children.”

Head of housing Mike Ash said while that sounded like a priority case, families with children were always made a highest priority.