To be legally defined as homeless you must have no access to accommodation and therefore lack a secure place in which you are entitled to live or able to stay. An individual may be homeless if they are rough sleeping, don’t have the legal right to stay where they currently are or live in unsuitable and unstable housing.   

Individuals and families become homeless for various reasons. There are many social causes of homelessness, such as lack of affordable housing, facing financial hardships and unemployment. Alternatively, sometimes it is life events that push people into homelessness. This may include veterans who have recently left the armed forces with no home to return to, and individuals/families escaping domestic violence. For many, life events like losing a job, struggling with mental or physical health problems, or the breakdown of personal relationships can also lead to homelessness. Often, a disaster such as fire or flooding can also result in families facing homelessness.  

As well as the various causes of homelessness, there are several types of homelessness that individuals face. Perhaps the most common and visible form of homelessness is rough sleeping. When most people think of a homeless person, they likely consider the individuals sleeping in shop doorways or local parks. Yet, there remains an ever-present issue, commonly referred to as “hidden homelessness”. These individuals are often the forgotten people of the homelessness issue, who sofa surf with family or friends, or stay in temporary hostels and B&Bs.  

In the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s most recent statistics release titled “Statutory Homelessness January to March 2021: England”, the most common reason for loss of last settled home was “friends or family no longer willing or able to accommodate”, which accounted for 21,750 households or 31.9% of households assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness from January-March of this year.  

However, according to one of the UK’s leading homelessness charity, Crisis, there is no definitive figure for how many people and families are homeless throughout the UK, mainly because a vast majority of homeless people do not show up in official statistics at all. Regarding this issue, Bob Blackman, Conservative MP, recently stated: “Much is known about the root causes of homelessness, but when it comes to prevention, the lack of a strong, accurate evidence base has created an obstacle when it comes to implementing and assessing the impact of policy decisions. This is why a more comprehensive collection of data is so vital”.  

Despite the efforts to combat this issue, homelessness continues to rise year on year in England. According to Crisis, before the pandemic spread throughout the UK, the estimated figures of homeless households jumped from 207,600 in 2018 to over 219,000 at the end of 2019. Post-pandemic, with the government’s “Everyone In” scheme and furlough support for businesses ending, and the uplift to Universal Credit being abolished, the figure of those facing homelessness is predicted to rise at an exponential rate.