Written by Kerenza Joy
We uncover a few facts and figures to inspire change and avoid ignorance this season. The number of homeless people in the UK hit 320,000 in 2018, according to the BBC. This was a shocking a rise of 13,000 from the previous year, which is equivalent to 36 people becoming homeless each day. The crisis can seem overwhelming but as with all big topics, breaking them down to ground level facts can help us to make positive change. Homelessness spurs emotion in us all, some feel sad, some angry and others sceptical. Were bringing a spot of Clarity with the four types of Homelessness kept behind closed doors…
This, we’re probably most familiar with - images of those forced to sleep outside on the street or in doorways often come to mind. Government street counts showed that approximately 4,751 people slept rough across England on any given night in 2017 which was a 15% increase from 2016 and double the amount of 2010. The top ranking cities for community members sleeping rough were: Westminster, Camden, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol. Of course the problem is nationwide. Many of those who sleep rough will suffer from multiple health conditions, including mental health problems and drug misuse. According to the charity Crisis they are seventeen times more likely to be victims of violence than the general population.
Every year thousands of families will approach their local council for help with housing as they are at risk of becoming, or already are, homeless. Local authorities have a legal obligation to provide housing for those who meet certain criteria - those people are recognised as ‘statutory homeless’. In 2017 there were 112,200 applications made to local authorities for statutory homelessness according to Homeless Link. The majority of cases occurred because families can not support an individual, a short-term tenancy agreement ends, or due-to violence within the home. Applications can come from all directions, but hospitals, prisons and social services are some of the top-ranking referral sources.
There are a number of households in temporary accommodation. The charity Crisis reported that 78,930 households were in this situation on 31st December 2017. An overwhelming majority of these households included children and/or a pregnant woman. Temporary accommodation could be anything from a night shelter or B&B, to social housing. The length of time people can stay can vary from a single night to indefinitely. Households may be placed in a ‘bed and breakfast’ by the local council, due-to no other emergency accommodation being available, but this should only be for a maximum of 6-weeks where children are involved. Refuges for victims of domestic abuse, disability or substance abuse are another common location for those in need of a home.
These people are more difficult to record, as their title suggests, and includes people who become homeless but find a temporary solution by staying with family members or friends i.e. sofa surfing, living in squats or other insecure accommodation. Research by the charity Crisis indicates that about 62% of single homeless people are hidden and may not show up in official figures. It’s no surprise when we’re living in a culture hot on self-reliance. Those who are the ‘hidden homeless’ have decided to ‘handle it’ themselves, leaving many extremely vulnerable. According to the London Assembly Housing Committee in 2017, ‘225,000 young people in London have stayed in an insecure place because they had nowhere safe to call home. Meanwhile there are an estimated 20,000+ squatters in the UK. More often than not, poverty and external circumstances are the main culprit. While it can be easy to criticise an individual's actions, it’s incredibly hard to know how we would react in the same situation, unless we have been there.
Image credit: Freepik