What is homelessness?


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When you think of homelessness, what do you think of? There are definitely certain stereotypes that come to mind. But here’s the thing. There’s no singular way to be homeless. Not everyone facing homelessness is on the same journey. Everyone has their own set of unique challenges. 

Homelessness takes many forms. There is no ‘one size fits all’ way to be homeless, and so there’s no ‘one size fits all’ resolution to the cycle of homelessness. 

Statutory homelessness 

If someone going through homelessness approaches local authorities for support, they’ll often be referred to as ‘statutory homeless’, meaning that the local authority has a duty to provide support. 

To be legally defined as statutory homeless, a person has to be without a secure place they’re entitled to live, and nowhere that they can stay regularly. However, someone facing homelessness must meet very strict criteria in order to access the appropriate support, which is often a serious barrier to breaking the cycle. For many, getting help from their local authority can feel like an overwhelming, even impossible, task. 

In the latest statistics from the government, over 140,000 households were assessed as statutory homeless in the year 2021-2022. This is almost a 3% increase from 2019-2020. Thousands more households are currently threatened with homelessness in the near future, a problem which is now only made worse as the cost of living crisis rages on.   

Temporary accommodation 

If those who’ve been given statutory homeless status do receive the help they need from their local authority, they’ll likely be placed into temporary accommodation while their case is investigated further. This may be a self-contained flat or hotel, but could be a bed and breakfast, hostel or refuge. 

Temporary placements come with a lot of uncertainty, as there’s simply no way of knowing how long a placement will last or where it will be. At the end of September 2021, over 90,000 households had been placed in temporary accommodation, with over 100,000 dependent children without a permanent home. Imagine being uprooted from everything you know, everything you’re familiar with and with no clear idea of what the future holds. 

Hidden homelessness

Homelessness is always difficult to quantify. This is partly due to the amount of people experiencing hidden homelessness, out of sight of government officials, surveys and statistics. 

Hidden homelessness is the experience of moving between hostels, bed and breakfasts, squats or in the homes of friends and family. It’s often called ‘sofa surfing’, and in a report from Crisis, 62% of the people surveyed were currently classed as experiencing hidden homelessness.

Sadly, according to the same report, many of the people surveyed may have been able to get out of the cycle much earlier had they simply been able to access the right support. Unfortunately, many people find themselves joining the growing population of people with complex needs who are facing long-term homelessness. 

Women and hidden homelessness

According to government statistics from March 2022, in autumn 2021, 13% of people facing homelessness in the UK were women. However, we simply don't know how accurate that figure is. The reality is that it's likely to be far higher due to the fact that women and their experience of homelessness tend to be more hidden.

Women dealing with homelessness are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, trauma, sexual assault and exploitation. Utimately, hiding from potential harm can result in women being hidden from the help and support they need, creating a viscious cycle.

At Simon on the Streets, the outreach and support we provide is long-term and always ongoing. We work closely with our clients through both practical and emotional challenges, to help them take back control of their lives and break the cycle of homelessness.

If you’d like to get involved with the work of Simon on the Streets, our Simon's Big Sleep Out is back! After a two year break, we’ll be back at Leeds Civic Hall this Thursday. With backing from the Lord Mayor of Leeds, we’re excited to welcome you to what is a crucial fundraising event in the Simon on the Streets calendar. 

Can we count on you? 

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