Homeless stats and how you can help

22nd October 2018

With homelessness on the rise, we wanted to help raise awareness and let you know how you can give your support.

What is homelessness?

The law defines someone as being homeless if they do not have a legal right to occupy accommodation, or if their accommodation is unsuitable to live in.

When people think of homeless people, many picture those sleeping rough. However, there are different forms of homelessness and you can still be considered homeless despite having a roof over your head. This can include people who are living in temporary accommodation, sofa surfing or those staying in hostels.

What causes homelessness?

There are many factors that can contribute to someone being homeless. Most causes of homelessness fall under personal and structural issues.

Personal causes of homelessness:

Individual factors, such as poor physical and mental health and relationship breakdowns

Family background, including family breakdown and disputes, having parents with drug or alcohol problems, and previous experience of family homelessness 

Structural causes of homelessness are social and economical issues that are often outside of the individual’s control.

  • Unemployment
  • Poverty
  • A lack of affordable housing
  • Housing policies

How much is homelessness rising?

According to statistics published by the government, the estimated number of people sleeping rough in 2017 was 4,751, an increase of 15% from 2016 and a massive increase of 169% from 2010. Despite this steep rise, many charities still argue that the numbers fail to give an accurate picture of the level of street homelessness.

Figures published by the government are based on paper estimates or single-night snapshots. These counts could easily miss those that are well hidden or ones who regularly sleep rough but have found a hostel or shelter for the night, meaning the true number could be even higher.

Official statistics for those who are in temporary accommodation also give a bleak picture. 79,880 households were recorded to be in temporary accommodation at the end of March 2018. This marks the twenty-seventh time that the number has risen compared with the same quarter of the previous year. These households include 123,230 children, representing a 65% increase since the first quarter of 2010.

The housing crisis has had a huge impact on house prices and rent costs. Our charity partner, Shelter, has found that despite having a full-time job, many homeless people find themselves not being able to afford rent, and as a result they lose their tenancy. New figures show that 55% of those living in temporary accommodation are in work– an increase of 73% since 2013.

According to Shelter this has become the single biggest cause of homelessness in England, accounting for 27% of all households considered homeless last year.

Whilst the government release statistics on those living in temporary accommodation and estimates on rough sleepers, it fails to give a full picture, with no official statistics available for people who are sofa surfing, meaning the true full extent of homelessness in the UK is unknown.

How can you help?

Alert the professionals

A simple way to help is to tell a professional. The government-funded service, Street Link, allows you to do this easily. You can give them a call or use their website or app to enter details on the location, time and date you saw the person and any other information you have. This service then contacts professionals who will try to find them in order to help give them access to things like shelter and food.

Avoid stereotyping or stigmatising

With so many reasons behind homelessness, it is extremely important not to stereotype. Each individual has their own story and above all, whatever the reason, they all have value and deserve help.

Say hello

Homelessness can be extremely alienating and can erode a person’s self-worth. Acknowledging homeless people with a smile or engaging in a conversation can make a big difference in a day full of hardship.

Keep them warm

The winter especially can be a hard time for those sleeping rough, bringing a big risk of hypothermia from being outside for so long. If you have clothes in the closet that you want to get rid of, or a pair of winter gloves, scarves or hats you don’t wear/need anymore, why not give them away to people you see on the streets and help them stay warm.

Help their four-legged friends

A pet can sometimes be a homeless person’s only companion. Both the owner and pet may be extremely grateful of some dog food. You could also put them in touch with the Dog’s Trust Hope Project, who help provide help with the cost of veterinary treatments. Dogs that are part of the scheme are entitled to free flea and worming treatments, vaccinations, neutering and microchipping. They can also subsidise most additional treatments that a dog may need. This is available to any dog owner who is sleeping rough, living in temporary accommodation or those sofa surfing.

Don’t forget the hidden homeless or those at risk from homelessness

Whilst the plight of rough sleepers is painfully visible, it’s easy to forget about the many homeless people hidden away in hostels, temporary accommodation or sofa surfing. If you know somebody in this situation or somebody who may be at risk of losing their home, put them in touch with Shelter. They are open 365 days a year for housing advice and support.

You can also support Shelter directly through donations, volunteering your time, taking part in a Shelter event or donating items to or buying from a Shelter shop. To find out how you can get involved visit https://england.shelter.org.uk/support_us

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