THERE are ten times as many homeless families from Croydon living in emergency housing than six years ago.
Figures, which lay bare the housing crisis facing the borough, show the number of families housed by the council because they have nowhere else to go has increased from 61 in 2008 to 610 this week.
Peter Brown, the council's director of housing need, said the situation had become "desperate".
"We're doing everything we can to find more homes," he added.
A third of the 610 families currently in emergency housing are staying in shared accommodation such as bed and breakfasts. Seven have been there for more than the legal limit of six weeks.
Croydon's problems have deepened despite the council borrowing £30 million to invest in buying and sourcing homes in the last two years.
Alison Butler, cabinet member for housing, said the council remained critically short of temporary housing.
"We're facing an absolute crisis because, more and more, we haven't got anywhere to move these people on to," she said.
She said two former office blocks in Thornton Heath, bought by the council to convert into 189 flats, would come into use in January and that extra effort was being put into persuading landlords to take social tenants, a supply which has dwindled significantly.
Cllr Butler added that the council also had plans to build homes itself, including a scheme in New Addington announced this week, but was "treading water" until all these solutions were introduced.
Recent measures have been unable to stem the council's reliance on emergency housing.
Last year, the then Conservative-led council invested £10 million it had borrowed from the Public Works Loans Board (PWLB) into a property fund in order to buy 94 one and two-bedroom homes in London.
That followed £20 million loaned from the PWLB a year earlier which was used to directly purchase 80 homes. Cllr Butler said the money had been "slowly making a difference".
"The problem is we have more people coming in than we have moving out," she added.
The housing shortage has meant the council has had to look further afield for homes. So far this year 15 families have been housed outside of London, it said.
Romand Lewis, 32, and his wife Serita, 31, were evicted by their landlord from a flat in Clarke Close, West Croydon, earlier this month.
Mr Lewis, a trainee nurse at Croydon University Hospital, was offered a bedsit 30 miles away in Woking, Surrey, and given no choice but to accept the placement or be classed as making his family intentionally homeless.
They had so little money when they arrived at their emergency home they could not afford to buy blankets, so the couple and their two-year-old daughter Kayleigh slept curled up in their jackets.
The family later attended a meeting with council officers in Croydon but, Mr Lewis said, they were unable to afford the train fare back to Woking so slept on a friend's floor until their child tax credit came through.
"I tried to tell the council we couldn't afford to live in Woking and work in Croydon but they weren't interested," he said. "It's no way to treat people. My wife is in tears every night."