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About homelessness

Coronavirus and homelessness

In This Together

People facing homelessness are hit especially hard by this outbreak. Those forced to sleep rough are more likely to suffer from respiratory conditions and other illnesses. If someone is sleeping rough or in a crowded night shelter, it’s simply impossible to follow the government advice and self-isolate. And many people who were already living with financial pressures are at serious risk of being pushed over the brink into homelessness as a result of the outbreak if we don’t provide the right support.

We know we cannot let people be affected in this way. We are calling on everyone to play their part in protecting the people who are most exposed. 

In This Together

On average, homeless people die at just 44 years old

Homelessness is devastating, dangerous and isolating.

People sleeping on the street are almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence. More than one in three people sleeping rough have been deliberately hit or kicked or experienced some other form of violence whilst homeless.

Homeless people are over nine times more likely to take their own life than the general population. 

Real life stories

Our storyteller George is out there every day speaking to real people about their experiences of homelessness.

'I was in a rental property for fourteen years. The landlord decided out of the blue that he was selling it. There was no formal eviction notice. After fourteen years, I was given two weeks to move out. Previously we'd always had a good relationship, then he started to harass me. When I left it was awful. The locks were changed and the door closed behind me for good. Saying goodbye to all my neighbours, I couldn’t believe it was happening. I just felt lost.'

'I was first arrested for the Vagrancy Act in 2008. I just asked someone for 20p so I could use the phone. Two police saw it and arrested me on the spot for begging. I spent the night in the cells and was in court the next morning.'

I first realised I was gay when I was about fourteen. I didn’t have an easy time coming out. It led to me shutting that side of me away for a very long time... I think just the build-up of all of that has led to so many issues that have led to me becoming homeless.

What causes homelessness?

People become homeless for lots of different reasons. There are social causes of homelessness, such as a lack of affordable housing, poverty and unemployment; and life events which cause individuals to become homeless.

People can become homeless when they leave prison, care or the army with no home to go to. Many homeless women have escaped a violent relationship.

Many people become homeless because they can no longer afford the rent.

And for many, life events like a relationship breaking down, losing a job, mental or physical health problems, or substance misuse can be the trigger. Being homeless can, in turn, make many of these problems even harder to resolve.

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To find out more about the factors that contribute to homelessness please read:

How many people are homeless?

There is no national figure for how many people are homeless across the UK. This is because homelessness is recorded differently in each nation, and because many homeless people do not show up in official statistics at all.

Government street counts and estimates give a snapshot of the national situation. The latest figures showed that 4,751 people slept rough across England on any given night in 2017 - a 15% increase compared to the previous year, and more than double the amount in 2010.

Last year 57,890 households were accepted as homeless in England. In Scotland, 34,100 applications were assessed as homeless and in Wales 9,210 households were threatened with homelessness.

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The Homelessness Monitor is a longitudinal study providing an independent analysis of the homelessness impacts of recent economic and policy developments in the UK.

Types of homelessness

Rough sleeping

Rough sleeping is the most visible form of homelessness, and when most people think of a homeless person they tend to think of someone sleeping rough on the streets. Many people who sleep rough will suffer from multiple health conditions, such as mental health problems and drug misuse they are also in greater danger of violence than the general population.

Statutory homelessness

Local authorities have a duty to secure a home for some groups of people. This is often referred to as the main homelessness duty. Every year, tens of thousands of people apply to their local authority for homelessness assistance.

To be legally defined as homeless you must either lack a secure place in which you are entitled to live or not reasonably be able to stay. However, in order to receive assistance under the main homelessness duty, there are further strict criteria that you have to meet. Local authorities may initially provide temporary accommodation to households who might meet these criteria, mainly families with children.

Hidden homelessness

Many people who are not entitled to help with housing, or who don’t even approach their councils for help, aren’t counted in the official statistics.

Many stay in hostels, squats or B&Bs, in overcrowded accommodation or ‘concealed' housing, such as the floors or sofas of friends and family.

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