Homelessness in the UK: Classification and Causes
Homelessness is all around us. Whether doing a last-minute Christmas shop, or on a night out with your mates, it is hard to ignore the number of people curled up in doorways or sat on the streets of our towns and cities. Thankfully for us, we can continue our dash to the next shop or walk to the next bar knowing that we have a warm bed and roof over our heads to go back to. For far too many though, the same thing cannot be said.
According to Crisis, the UK national charity for people experiencing homelessness, there are in excess of 200,000 people suffering the most severe and immediate form of homelessness. The shocking reality is that homelessness isn’t just consigned to those sleeping rough on the streets, it takes many forms:
Rough sleeping – The most dangerous and most visible form of homelessness. Trauma, mental health and drug misuse are just a few of the challenges that those who sleep rough face.
Statutory homelessness - 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.
Hidden homelessness – There are many people who are entitled to housing assistance, but never approach their local councils for help. These people often stay in hostels, squats, B&Bs or on the floors and sofas of friends and family.
At risk of homelessness – Sadly, there are many individuals who aren’t currently included in homelessness statistics but are on the brink of becoming so. People in low paid jobs, living in poverty and poor quality or insecure housing are more likely to experience homelessness.
It is clear to see that homelessness is a big issue within the UK, and the problems run deeper than perhaps our current common perception and visible understanding of what it is. If the thought of living without a roof over your head is terrifying enough, consider that those sleeping rough are almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence while homeless. It’s a further contributing factor in why the average age of death for homeless men is 45, and just 43 for women.
The causes of homelessness are numerous, and each individual will have their own story and reason as to why they find themselves in that situation. Some of the common reasons for homelessness include the following:
Lack of affordable housing
Reduced welfare provision
Growing fragmentation of families
Forced into homelessness when leaving prison, care, or the army
Can no longer afford rent
Impact of life events such as marriage breakdowns, mental or physical health issues, or substance abuse
Through a combination of structural and social issues, homelessness is not a choice for far too many, and the problem runs far deeper than what most of us currently know or assume. It’s thanks to the great work of charities such as Crisis, Shelter, The Big Issue Foundation, Centrepoint, Depaul UK, St Mungo’s, The Salvation Army, Emmaus UK, Homeless Link, and Streetlink that homelessness is not an even greater issue than it currently is.
You can help the great work of national and local homeless charities through Toucan. Simply download the app, find your chosen charity, and choose whether to add them to your portfolio or make a one-off donation.
Whether large or small, we can all make a difference to the lives of those who are less fortunate than us, and the first step in doing that is through our improved understanding of homelessness. For most, this will come as a shock, but through an improved education, slowly we can all contribute towards support and care for those who find themselves without a home or simply a warm bed they can call their own.