What is homelessness?

Homelessness is about more than sleeping rough. This page will help you understand the different types of homelessness and why some are treated as a priority. 

A bench at night

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. 

Did you know:

‘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.

Did you know: 

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. 

Did you know:

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.

Download a PDF version here

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What is homelessness?

Download a PDF version here