Working, but homeless. What are the challenges?


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According to a report by Crisis, 40% of employers admitted that they would likely seek to terminate an employee’s contract if they were found to be homeless. That’s such a disturbing statistic that you have to read it more than once in order for it to sink in. 

It’s hard to imagine how difficult it must be to hold down a job whilst dealing with homelessness. The strain it takes on a person's physical, mental and emotional well being is tremendous, it’s something we’ve seen first hand during our outreach work

Here we’re taking a look at the challenges faced by those people who are working, but also facing homelessness. 

Assumptions about those facing homelessness

Lazy, incompetent, all their own fault - these are just some of the assumptions society wrongly continues to make about those facing homelessness. And it’s ironic really, since the reality is that many people have employment that’s at risk simply because they don’t have a stable place to call home. 

Those assumptions are wrong. But the barriers to support when it comes to securing employment are very, very real. 

Practical problems

Think about the things you need to help you get to work and function effectively when you’re there. Clean clothes, a secure address for your post to be sent to, money for transport, regular meals to see you through the day.

Whilst all of this might sound like very basic stuff, it’s not so easy to organise when you’re facing homelessness, and the constant worry about keeping on top of things can cause a significant amount of pressure. 

Meaningful connections

Many of us spend an awful lot of time at work. And whilst we’re there, we form connections and friendships. You might socialise with your work colleagues, use them as a sounding board when things aren’t going so well, or share good news with them when it comes. 

For those facing homelessness, this often isn’t possible. The chances of creating meaningful connections with colleagues are negatively impacted. Perhaps most worryingly, individuals are discouraged from turning to their employer for support out of fear of losing their job, leaving them completely trapped in a cycle of homelessness.

High cost of rent

Although some individuals facing homelessness receive a wage, they can struggle to find permanent accommodation within their budget. 

The current economic climate has resulted in drastic changes to the housing market. An increase in house prices and rent costs, as well as a shortage of properties, will continue to result in many people missing out on a place to live. Renters and landlords are more likely to select individuals with higher and more reliable incomes, as well as solid references, something that most people facing homelessness don’t have.

No government support

An analysis of government data by Shelter’s shows that in 2017, 55% of families living in temporary accommodation were working. This represents over 33,000 families who were holding down a job despite having nowhere stable to live. Ultimately, this demonstrates that the amount of people facing homelessness is NOT simply a result of flaws in a person's character. 

It’s clear that numbers are only set to rise unless more supportive government policies are introduced to help struggling individuals pay their bills. And with skyrocketing energy bills and the current cost of living crisis, it’s inevitable that more people will face homelessness this winter.

Chronic lack of housing or social housing

The chronic shortage of affordable homes and temporary housing in the UK is a real problem. Whilst homeless shelters are available, many are too scared to resort to this option.

Fears of safety or having belongings stolen largely contribute to people’s avoidance. But, for some, these places may be too out of reach from their place of work. Unable to afford fuel or public transport, this simply may not be a feasible alternative.

Does hidden homelessness come into this?

Unfortunately, we simply don’t know the true extent of the working-homlessness problem. Many individuals refuse to seek government or charity support for a number of reasons. Those facing homelessness are often distrustful of services, and may be trying to get by sofa surfing, and because of this they’re hidden from statistics.

There’s no two ways about it. Employment has the ability to play a key part in overcoming homelessness, but it’s not an easy cycle to break. Without government support, or housing that is affordable, it will be incredibly difficult. However, on the most basic of levels, understanding from colleagues and employers will be a massive first step.

This winter, we’re going to need more support than ever so that we can continue to support individuals, working or not, that are facing homelessness. Contact us now to find out more about how you can help.

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