HOMELESSNESS – WHAT the heck IS all ‘that’ about? WHO, WHY, WHERE, and HOW???

[The data and information for this post was garnered by this blogger in research from a variety of internet sources, with many thanks, but it is of course presented totally independently]

The term ‘literally homeless’ is often used to denote the people staying in shelters for the homeless, on the streets, or in other similar settings (e.g., in abandoned buildings, in make-shift structures, in parks)

‘Sheltered Homelessness’ refers to people who are staying in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs, or safe havens.

Unsheltered Homelessness’, on the other hand, refers to people whose primary night-time residence is a public or private place not designated for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for people – for example, the streets, vehicles, or parks)

Homelessness isn’t JUST sleeping on the streets. It also means people without a permanent home. This COULD mean living in ‘unsuitable’ temporary accommodation in hostels or bed and breakfasts or sofa-surfing

At the end of 2019, then newly released research from the homelessness charity Crisis revealed the contemporary scale of an issue that has rarely before received serious scrutiny. Their findings were the latest at the time attempt to articulate the realities underpinning what is the most common, and commonly misunderstood, form of “hidden homelessness” in the country.

It is all too easy to imagine those in power dismissing the findings, as they DO the grotesque explosion in the use of food banks over the last decade, as a uniquely British impulse to charity – something to be ‘applauded’, rather than ‘challenged’ as a key symptom of an ever more grossly UNEQUAL society.

Of course, these are the same people who wish to degrade tenants’ rights even further, and who continue to punish and humiliate those who have the audacity to be POOR, or anyone who claims state benefits. It is no accident that over half of people spoken to by Crisis pointed to housing affordability as the KEY reason behind their starting to sofa surf, while 40% said that their benefits didn’t cover the cost of rent

It’s thought that there are at least 320,000 people currently homeless in the UK, a number most observers believe to be a considerable underestimate. Of that number, there are more than 170,000 “core homeless households” – those experiencing rough sleeping, night shelters or unsuitable temporary accommodation. Of that number, more than 71,000 are thought to be sofa surfing – depending on the kindness of friends, family and acquaintances, often for protracted periods of time when they have nowhere else to go

As ‘anecdotally’ recounted by Francisco Garcia in the Guardian newspaper, back thirty years ago in south-east London, the birth of a baby would have come as a great social RELIEF for the parents, although their lives were full of some minor and some major cares and stresses, but when at the forefront was their housing situation, a blend of precarity and claustrophobia: what we would call “legal homelessness”, THEN as NOW. The couple’s parents’ lives were partly spent between the mother’s housing association flat, and the spare beds and sofas of various ‘’’friends and family’. However, the baby’s birth offered them the promise of a modest council flat, a solid enough base for a less immediately difficult future

It speaks vividly of the current absurdities of the UK in 2021/2022 that the resolution to such parents’ story sounds like a fairy-tale, some 30 years on. It seems comically distant, that once – even in London – there were affordable and even social housing OPTIONS for those without the requisite capital to navigate the private rental market, let alone to dare to dream of home ownership [Note the waiting list for council housing in England had been forecast to double from 100,000 to 200,000 this year, while according to the Chartered Institute of Housing, the UK also sold off 20,000 social rented homes in England between 2020 and 2021, as 1,000,000 sit on the waiting list for social housing.

Out of those, 121,000 were sold off under the Right-to-Buy scheme introduced under Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government. Meanwhile 116,000 were converted to higher ‘affordable’ rents, while the rest were demolished. Separate figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the number of households in the UK’s private rented sector increased from 2.8million in 2007 to 4.5million now. With more than a million households in England stuck on a social housing waiting list and fewer than 7,000 social homes built last year in 2020 – the crisis gripping the country is unlikely to vanish any time soon

The National Housing Federation warned in findings published in its 2020 annual People in Housing Need report, the most comprehensive report then on the state of the nation’s housing crisis, that the real ‘social housing waiting list’ in England is 500,000 households – much bigger than official figures suggest

In the modern still affluent 21st century UK, some seventy years after the war had decimated its housing, widespread homelessness now seems rife with doorway rough sleepers lying in the streets of all our major cities across the Country. According to Shelter, between 4,000 and 5,000 people sleep rough EVERY night, a figure that has more than DOUBLED since 2010. These are ‘visibly’ destitute people, who attract sympathy or scorn for as long as attention alights on them at all. But we must not forget the thousands who remain locked out of statistics and out of sight. Certainly, visible homelessness is up, but don’t forget the hidden pain of Britain’s sofa surfers, when also tens of THOUSANDS of people depend on the kindness of friends and family just for a place to sleep EVERY night.

In the UK, the government provides official point-in-time estimates of homelessness.

These official estimates come from reports submitted annually by local authorities to the Department for Communities and Local Government. The main sources of information for these reports are either active counts carried out on a single night, or estimates based on information provided by agencies such as ‘outreach workers’, ‘the police’, ‘the voluntary sector’ and ‘faith groups’ who have contact with rough sleepers on the street

Homelessness is in fact a global problem (impacting for example people in the UK, the US, the 36 OECD countries, and France, Chile, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Italy, Belgium, Germany, and elsewhere around the globe). Evidence shows it equally affects the advanced economies and rich counties including the United States of America, no less (homeless people in the US remains an important policy problem and on any given night in 2016, around 550,000 people suffered from homelessness, with 1 in 1,670 Americans being homeless).

Moreover, here in Britain as reported by the UK Metro newspaper, there’s the new crisis of EVICTION, with thousands of families fighting to keep a roof over their heads, so 200,000 CHILDREN faced enduring homeless this Christmas after eviction from privately rented accommodation this winter (so much for Santa Claus delivering presents in the night at home to excited youngsters – how could we, that’s YOU and ME, be so cruel at this most special time of year for young kids and one which is supposed to be a period of peace, joy, giving, and family celebration, combined with dreams of idyllic times and a serene existence?)

A new poll carried out by YouGov for the housing charity Shelter has just revealed that very shocking 200,000 statistic – moreover according to latest government figures 126,000 children were ALREADY homeless in England (Shelter estimates that 55,000 children, along with their families, had already been evicted or removed from their homes in the last three months, and that 104,000 families had already received an eviction notice in the last month or are currently behind on their rent) – those drastically high numbers are in part a result of the hike in living costs, which when combined with reduced incomes from redundancies and furloughs in the pandemic, creates a financial emergency for those families teetering on the edge. With fuel costs soaring, Universal Credit payments cut, and rent prices increasing, it’s all adding up and forcing many families to fall behind on rent payments, a near guarantee of EVICTION and impending homelessness this winter. We’re now seeing a real crunch point as debts pile up and living costs soar – this has resulted in more eviction notices landing on doormats

[While councils have a ‘legal duty’ to house families with children, they are struggling to find suitable accommodation for those evicted from their homes. This means children are spending long periods of time in run down and often grossly overcrowded temporary accommodation with no stability at all. Fundamentally, the government needs to tackle the root cause of homelessness – which is a lack of homes people can afford to live in.  We don’t have enough good quality social homes, because we’ve barely built any for years.  Last year we built FEWER than 6000, while over a million households sat on waiting lists – the government needs to do better – MUCH BETTER]

[‘Section 21’ evictions are the most, ‘common’ types you get in the private rented sector. It’s referred to as the ‘no fault eviction’ because the landlords DON’T have to say WHY they want the property back. So, whether they want to sell it, move back into, or knock it down – these are all things they can evict people for without ‘any sort’ of explanation or evidence]

Sometimes, a minority of landlords needed to sell or move back into the rented homes because they were in financial difficulties themselves However, it isn’t just faltering finances instigating evictions – following the government’s eviction ban, which came into force at the start of LOCKDOWN in March 2020, the protections it offered for renters during Covid ended in June 2021  (Once that ban was lifted, landlords all over the country were suddenly getting papers ready to evict because they hadn’t been able to do it during that period – predictably a tsunami of more than a year’s worth of evictions, were incoming at some point, but the Johnson government did absolutely NOTHING to prevent it nor the RESULTING homelessness – DISGUSTING, especially when the government had fully committed that no one would lose their home due to the pandemic!).

There are social causes of homelessness, such as a lack of affordable housing, poverty, unemployment; and life events which push people into homelessness .People are forced into homelessness when they leave prison, care, or the army with NO home to go to

Ending the stigma that clouds the homeless population is the FIRST step in finding a meaningful, long-lasting SOLUTION for those doing it tough.

We are finding these below are also SOME of the key homelessness reasons:

Eviction from a privately rented home is one of the LEADING causes of homelessness. Short contracts, unfair evictions, and sky-high rents mean people struggle to keep a roof over their head

Unexpected ‘life events’

A relationship breakdown, losing a job, or physical or mental health problems might disrupt your life. And without a stable home or a fair welfare system to support you through tough times, an unexpected life event can be all it takes for the pressure to pile up and for you to lose your home

Social stigma: If a person has a vehicle or (even better) a camper they can use, then parking in some random parking lot for the night is more ‘socially acceptable’ than sleeping at a shelter. Unfortunately, some shelter volunteers are there for the express purpose of identifying ‘those people’ and pointing them out to anyone and everyone who will listen. Others have actually watched well respected and well connected ‘pillers-of-society’ do this…aggressively…on many occasions over the years (Also there are many reasons why homeless people AVOID using the local shelter. Some of the more commonly known reasons are a lack of sanitation, infestation with bugs or rodents, extremely dangerous people already using the shelter, problems with theft, enforced sobriety rules and being banned from the shelter for previous actions while staying there)

Employment: If you’re serious about acquiring or maintaining employment, staying at the shelter can be a terrible idea.

Abuse: Anyone running from an abusive relationship will be trying to find a safe place where they cannot be found.

Children: Even shelters that accommodate families with children can be hazardous for kids and teens. Depending on the situation, the number of people using the facility, and the way the shelter is managed, a parent may assess the situation and decide that it is simply too dangerous for the kids.

HOUSING should be a human right, but millions lack this basic right. According to a 2005 global survey, over 1.5 billion people don’t have “adequate” housing. It’s difficult to identify more precise numbers because countries have different definitions of “homelessness.” Tracking the issue is also expensive, so updated records are not common. Regardless, we know that homelessness is a major concern around the world. In recent years, many countries have seen their rates increase. Here are 10 root causes of homelessness:

Stagnant wages

While the cost-of-living increases, wages haven’t. In the United States say, the minimum wage has gone up around 350% since 1970, but the Consumer Price Index has increased by over 480%. This makes it challenging to cover everyday living expenses, let alone save money for homeownership down the line or emergencies. Without the ability to save money, an unexpected expense can devour a person’s income. Around the world, low wages keep people ‘trapped’ in poverty and more vulnerable to homelessness

Unemployment

While low wages contribute to homelessness, unemployment is also a significant factor. Reasons for unemployment vary and some countries have higher rates than others. Once a person is unemployed for a time, they can easily slip into homelessness. Research shows that most unhoused people want to work but face obstacles, such as not having a permanent address.

Lack of affordable housing

High housing costs are a global issue. A global survey from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy showed that out of 200 polled cities, 90% were considered unaffordable. This was based on average house prices being more than three times the median income. Without affordable housing, people find themselves with fewer options. It becomes harder to find housing near a place of work or in a safe area

Lack of affordable healthcare

Healthcare is very expensive, but many people are uninsured or underinsured. This means spending large amounts of money on healthcare while struggling to pay for rent, food, and utilities. It can also mean neglecting routine check-ups and procedures, leading to higher medical costs down the road. One serious injury or accident could push an individual or family into homelessness

Poverty

On a global scale, poverty is one of the most significant root causes of homelessness. Stagnant wages, unemployment, and high housing and healthcare costs all play into poverty. Being unable to afford essentials like housing, food, education, and more greatly increases a person’s or family’s risk. To address homelessness effectively, governments and organizations need to address poverty.

Lack of mental health and addiction treatment services

The two-way connection between mental health, addiction, and homelessness is clear. In the US, around 30% of “chronically homeless” people have mental health conditions. In 2017, the National Coalition for the Homeless found that 38% of homeless people depend on alcohol, 26% depend on other substances. Having a mental illness or addiction makes a person more vulnerable to homelessness and makes it more difficult to find permanent housing. A lack of stable housing also exacerbates mental health and addiction issues. Without treatment services, it’s very difficult for someone to break the cycle.

Racial inequality

In the United States say, racial minorities experience homelessness at a higher rate than the white population. According to research from the National Alliance to End Homelessness and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, black Americans are 3 times more likely to LOSE housing. Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans are also minorities disproportionately affected. The reasons why are based in racial inequalities such as racial discrimination in housing and incarceration

Domestic violence

Women and children are especially vulnerable to violence-triggered homelessness. To escape domestic violence, people will flee their homes without a plan. If they don’t have a place to stay, they can end up living in cars, shelters, or the street. Even for those who stay, the toll that domestic violence takes makes them more vulnerable to homelessness in the future. This is because trauma often leads to mental health issues and substance abuse

Family conflict

Closely related to domestic violence, ‘family conflict’ can also lead to homelessness. This is especially true for the LGBTQ+ community. Coming out is risky. Families can kick out the individual or make the home environment dangerous. According to the True Colours Fund, 1.6 million young LGBTQ+ people end up homeless each year. This population is also at an increased risk for homelessness at a younger age

Systemic failures

While homelessness can occur because of an individual’s or family’s circumstances, we cannot ignore the systemic failures. Homelessness occurs when society fails to identify and support people at risk of becoming unhoused. Failures in areas like correctional services, healthcare services, and child welfare are very common. A society’s failure to address racial inequalities, increase wages, and provide affordable housing also contribute to homelessness rates.

SHELTER

Shelter is a UK registered charity that campaigns to end homelessness and bad housing in Great Britain. It gives advice, information and advocacy to people in need, and tackles the root causes of bad housing by lobbying government and local authorities for new laws and policies to improve the lives of homeless and badly housed people. It exists to fight for all those whose lives are blighted by the loss of their home. In the UK the housing emergency is devastating lives & communities across the country No-one needs to face bad housing or homelessness alone. Last year over 5 million people turned to Shelter for advice, while 3,300 unique callers used its helpline each week

This has been a difficult year for many of US in Britain, but this winter, THOUSANDS will face the added challenge of being stuck in unsafe housing or the prospect of losing their home altogether.

[SHELTER Urgent Appeal (https://www.shelter.org.uk/)

If you and your family were ‘safely housed’ this Christmas, YOU by donating now if you are financially able, COULD help provide vital support to OTHER people facing eviction, families living in UNSUITABLE temporary accommodation, and people facing ANOTHER night sleeping in the car.

As well as support and advice, you’ll also be giving HOPE – ‘the hope’ of a brighter 2022 for someone giving their all to get into a safe, secure home

DONATE’ this winter and help families facing homelessness (say £10, £20, perhaps £30 (which could fund two webchats, giving expert digital advice for someone facing homelessness), £80, or just choose your own amount? Donations won’t be restricted to any single project but will be used by Shelter wherever they’re ‘most needed’ in their fight to defend the right to a safe home (for every £1 you donate just 21p is spent on fundraising]

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