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IKEA UK launches ‘Real Life Roomsets’, revealing the reality of those living in temporary accommodation

Picture of women with yellow IKEA bag in front of a Real Life Roomset in IKEA Warrington
Press releasesSustainability6 March 2023Last edited: 18 March 2023
One in every 208 people in England is currently experiencing homelessness, with over 11 million adults in the UKworried about losing their current home. To highlight the scale and reality of the issue, IKEA and its national charity partner, Shelter, have installed ‘Real Life Roomsets’ in a number of IKEA stores across the UK.

IKEA and its national charity partner, Shelter, have today launched ‘Real Life Roomsets’ in four IKEA stores, alongside new research that reveals public opinion around the housing emergency in the UK.

According to the research, one in five (21%) adults in the UK are worried about losing their home, with half (49%) saying if they lost their current home, they would struggle to find somewhere else to live. In the past year in order to keep up with their housing costs, 18% of adults in the UK say they have taken on additional work, 17% have skipped meals and a further quarter (25%) would consider it.

One in every 208 people in England is currently experiencing homelessness2, with thousands more likely to lose their homes by the end of the year as a result of the cost of living crisis. Together, IKEA and Shelter have created ‘Real Life Roomsets’ to raise awareness of this issue and highlight the real living conditions of those who are forced into temporary accommodation as a result.

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 grotty spaces that an increasing number of people who are experiencing homelessness are forced to experience when living in temporary accommodation.

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 and is designed to be just that: temporary. However, with a shortage in social housing, some families are finding themselves living in temporary accommodation for years, and are very often asked to move several times with short notice3.

‘Real Life Roomsets’ comes as part of IKEA and Shelter’s campaign demanding for 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.The four roomsets are located in IKEA stores near cities experiencing some of the worst levels of homelessness in the country4:

  • London: where 1 in 58 people are experiencing homelessness
  • Manchester: where 1 in 74 people are experiencing homelessness
  • Birmingham: where 1 in 80 people are experiencing homelessness
  • Bristol: where 1 in 183 people are experiencing homelessness

Sam, London, whose story is told in IKEA’s Hammersmith store:

After a relationship breakdown, Sam and her three children found themselves homeless and placed in a hostel that wasn’t appropriate. After seven weeks of living alone in her car while her children stayed with a friend, Sam was eventually placed in temporary accommodation, but it was out of her area and too far away from her children’s schools so they had to move to live with their dad. Sam was assaulted on two occasions while living in her temporary accommodation. Her temporary accommodation had black mould, and due to a hole in her front door where the letter box should have been, there was an overriding smell of cannabis constantly throughout the flat. The stress of the situation meant that Sam had to take leave from work, and she worries what the long-term impact will be of her not being able to care for her children during this time.


Claire, Birmingham, whose story is told in IKEA’s Birmingham store:

Claire and her three children have been experiencing homelessness since December 2021 after they had to leave their home due to an abusive relationship. 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. She says, “we carried all the stuff down into the new flat and when we got in there we were hit with this bad smell. It was like farm animals had lived there. Paper was falling off the walls, there was dirt everywhere, broken cupboards, blood stains on mattresses, faeces stains on there. My two-year-old was crawling all over the dirty carpet. My ten-year-old son burst out crying.”


Channah, North West, whose story is told in IKEA’s Warrington store:

Channah lived in the North West in a cramped emergency B&B with her three daughters. She was served an eviction notice in December 2021, and in May 2022 was moved into a B&B with her three children, then 10, 14 and 15. The B&B was a small room with a bunk bed, and had a kitchenette right next to the bed, leaving minimal space for the family. As a result, when studying for her GCSEs, her daughter often had to revise on the bathroom floor.Aside from space, the conditions were also completely unacceptable.

Channah says, “We once came home to notice that our bags had been rearranged, searched, and gone through. My children couldn’t find the tablet they use for their homework, the floor was damp and paint was all over our belongings. I felt violated at the invasion of our privacy. However, upon ringing the council, I was told that I had signed a licence agreement which meant they could access the room without notice and at any time. All I wanted was to have a space to call home where my children could study and achieve what they can. Our situation is greatly impacting their education and I feel powerless.”


Kate, Bristol, whose story is told in IKEA’s Bristol store:

As a qualified nurse and teacher, Kate was working shifts in a children’s home when she lost her job and was made homeless after the pandemic. Before Kate was referred to Shelter, she had suffered severe domestic abuse and experienced harassment from an ex-partner that forced her and her daughter to leave their rented accommodation. After briefly staying in a friend’s campervan, the pair were forced to live in a tent in mid-winter before it was set on fire by vandals.

Now in a B&B, Kate has no cooking facilities, no fridge, no microwave and cannot get out of debt, still suffering from the profound impact of the domestic abuse she suffered.


The focus on building ‘affordable’ homes rather than social housing is a distraction from finding a real solution to the housing emergency, which currently relies on the unsuitable provision of temporary accommodation where families are being forced to live in uninhabitable and unacceptable conditions. At IKEA, we believe that everyone deserves a place to call home, which is why we’re so proud to partner with Shelter in demanding for long-term change, whilst also helping those directly affected by the housing emergency in our local communities.

Peter JelkebyCountry Retail Manager and Chief Sustainability Officer, IKEA UK & Ireland

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter, said:A grotty hostel or B&B is not a home, but this is the reality for too many families stuck in temporary accommodation. That’s why we’re working with IKEA to show the grim living situations that families who become homeless are having to face – from having no space for children to do homework or play, to having to share beds, to being moved miles away from schools and support networks.

“With rents at an all-time high and no end to the cost of living crisis in sight, we’re desperately worried that more people are going to become homeless this year. The solution to this crisis is simple and it’s staring the government in the face: we must build a new generation of good quality social housing that people can actually afford to live in.”

‘Real Life Roomsets’ is part of IKEA and Shelter’s long-term partnership, which will 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 ‘Real Life Roomsets’ – including IKEA and Shelter’s downloadable campaign toolkit thatprovides an overview of how to join the campaign to build 90,000 social homes a year by 2030 – and their long-term partnership, visit IKEA.co.uk/Shelter


Research conducted amongst a national representative sample of 4,000 respondents by Opinium in February 2023, under strict Market Research Society Guidelines.

1Based on the latest ONS figures of the UK adult population being 53,369,083, and 21% of respondents in the nationally representative sample answering that they were worried about losing their home

2Of these, 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. Figures taken from: https://england.shelter.org.uk/media/press_release/at_least_271000_people_are_homeless_in_england_today

3In England, more than two-thirds of families (68%) living in temporary accommodation have been there for over a year. Figures taken from:  https://england.shelter.org.uk/media/press_release/at_least_271000_people_are_homeless_in_england_today
There are 1.2 million households on the social housing waiting list. Only 7,500 new social homes were built last year, while more than 21,000 were lost through sales or demolition. Figures taken from: https://england.shelter.org.uk/media/press_release/14000_social_homes_lost_last_year_as_over_a_million_households_sit_on_waiting_lists

4https://england.shelter.org.uk/media/press_release/at_least_271000_people_are_homeless_in_england_today

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