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What is homelessness?

Homelessness is about more than sleeping rough.

Not all people facing homelessness face the same challenges. And some people facing homelessness are not as visible as others.

Here are some useful definitions:-

Statutory homelessness

Local authorities have a duty to find a home for families or individuals approaching them who fit ‘priority need’ criteria. These households are initially offered temporary housing such as private sector housing, nightly paid accommodation or B&Bs. 

Priority Need

‘Priority need’ households include those with dependent children, pregnant women, those threatened with homelessness due to an emergency e.g. a flood, and those who are vulnerable.

Homelessness Reduction Act 2017

Under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, councils have a duty to prevent or relieve the homelessness of all eligible people threatened with homelessness within 56 days.

Individuals experiencing homelessness Individuals or couples without dependent children who are homeless but don’t meet ‘priority need’ criteria do not qualify for accommodation from their local authority. Many stay in short-term accommodation, such as hostels or supported accommodation provided by homelessness charities, sleep rough or remain hidden.

Rough sleeping.

This is the most visible form of homelessness and includes sleeping anywhere outside or in buildings not designed for human habitation such as stairwells, stations or cars. 

Rough sleeping accounts for less than 1% homelessness 

Hidden homelessness

Many people who become homeless aren’t counted in official figures. They may not ask for, or be entitled to, help with housing, and so won’t receive the support they need. Many “sofa surf” with family and friends or sleep out of sight in hostels, squats, public transport or other insecure and unsuitable accommodation.

What Causes Homelessness

Common reasons people give for their homelessness 

  1. Their family and friends are no longer able or willing to accommodate them. This can be because of relationship breakdown or financial strain among other issues.
  2. The end of a private rented Assured Shorthold Tenancy. The cost and shortage of housing can make it difficult to find a new home.

There can be a wide number of complex factors at play in people’s lives which may make them more vulnerable to homelessness. These can be either structural issues or individual circumstances and they are often interconnected. 

For example, the constant, strong pressure of high rents and low wages can build up on people. A sudden increase in pressure, like falling ill or losing their job, can force them into homelessness.

Did you know: Homelessness impacts all age groups. 

Women often constitute a higher number of the hidden homeless

Key factors forcing people into homelessness