There has been a lot of media attention around a seemingly growing problem of homelessness over recent years. This essay intends to investigate this problem using both primary and secondary research to assess whether homelessness is a growing problem, looking at statistics and interviews to support and/or argue this question. Investigating who is at the highest risk of becoming homeless and the scale of the problem.
People most at risk:
According to homeless.org, half of all people who seek help from councils and charities within England alone are under 25. As many as 6 out 10 of the individuals not being in work or any form of education, lacking the life skills to live independently with drug/alcohol abuse and mental health issues not being uncommon. The main cause for this homelessness is believed to be friends, family or guardian’s no longer being able/any longer wanting to house them and benefit cuts/sanctions making access to accommodation difficult for them. It is believed that of all the youth at risk, it is young offenders and people who have previously been in the care system who are most vulnerable to this. With councils only successfully only resolving 19% of all cases the remaining 81% become a high risk of becoming homeless again later in life. (anon. Youth homelessness campaign – homeless.org 22/11/18)
Households-individuals living homeless:
A recent study by Crisis has shown that there is factual evidence that there is a growing issue of homeless households. drawing on statistical information from several large-scale surveys from local authorities found that there were 78,000 households and individuals placed into temporary accommodation this year, a drastic rise of 60% since 2012 with a forecast of a further 10% increase on the year. if this trend continues as forecasted this could see numbers rising from 78,000 to 85,500 this year alone. In the past year, only 19,000 of the 56,000 who sought help had their case dealt with. (Jon sparkes. 2018 Crisis – crisis.org 22/11/18)
Causes of homelessness:
There are many factors to be considered in the causes of homelessness within the UK, mainly personal reasoning and structural reasons. Personal reasons can be a be a variety of problems and often very complex, from ill health, debt, lack of qualifications, family background/breakdowns and any background of being in care, the armed forces or prison. (Jon sparkes. 2018 Crisis – crisis.org)
It is believed the structural issues playing a part are issues such as a shift in the means of renting a property privately due to the council-owned property being in short supply, thus resulting in individuals not being able to afford rates rent and bills has resulted in a sharp increase from 5,000 per year to 18,000 per year. With ejection from property due to arrears on mortgages and rent in social housing being at an all-time low, it is becoming more apparent that the private sector and the problems associated with renting in this sector is causing homelessness than other tenures. For example, the high upfront costs of renting in this sector with many properties only being on a short-term lease. (Jon sparkes. 2018 Crisis – crisis.org)
Other concerns such as unemployment and the structure/lack of funding from housing schemes and poverty are playing a large part in the causes.
When interviewed, three members of the homeless community within the Chester area the reason given by themselves is no social alliance to anyone willing to house them, relationship breakdowns and loss of tenancy but no one given reason, rather a number of reasons combined.
Three men with a military background and/or who have previously been imprisoned were asked to answer three questions to investigate how they had become homeless.
Each person was asked three questions, Martin age 35 (Mil), James age 25 (Ex-con) and Robert age 28 (Mill/Ex-con). The three questions asked were:
A. What circumstances have led you to being homeless?
B.Do you feel there has been enough support given to help you get accommodation or emergency housing?
C. Do you feel that since being institutionalised there has been enough support to help you reintegrate and assistance in developing the relevant life skills to live independently?
Martin felt that due to a relationship breakdown, the legal battle for access to his children and the debts incurred from the whole process, combined with a child maintenance order with no consideration to his circumstance had led to him being homeless. He stated that since leaving the army he felt that although some help had been provided that it all came with restrictions and conditions which couldn’t always be met and that as a single male, he was consistently failed by the local authorities structure for housing vulnerable people.
James stated that due to his previous convictions he was unable to find work. stating that due to the structure of housing homeless in his local council and being a single male there was little to no support within realistic parameters. He also explained how he felt his cycle was often continued because of his drug use, explained as a means to block out the elements. He felt that the probation service had failed him but could not give a definitive reason for this belief and that he frequently debated committing a new crime, in the hope of going back to prison as means to accommodation and access to food.
Robert expressed that having lost the use of his right leg and losing 3 fingers on his right hand, he was limited to what work he was able to do. He felt that due to leaving the army on medical grounds he had been given little to no support. When asked if he felt local authorities had given him the support he needed he explained of how his rate of disability had been cut and he was unable to pay his bills rates and debts which had led to him being homeless.
What is being done to reduce homelessness in the UK?
There are clear issues regarding the increasing numbers of homeless. It is imperative that action is taken to prevent homelessness. Many steps are being taken to ensure that these numbers are reduced with the government aiming to have the issue completely resolved by 2027. In 2017 Parliament passed a new legislation (The Homeless Reduction Act of 2017), this new legislation makes it a councils duty to help people at risk of being homeless 56 days before they are at risk. £500 million has been spent on schemes and programmes to protect people at risk of homelessness since 2010, although the numbers are rising again homelessness is still at a much lower rate than its peak in the 2003-2004 years currently being 58% lower its peak in 2003 of 138,000 people. (see appendix for graph)
In conclusion, it would seem that all evidence points to there being a growing problem with homelessness within the UK, with numbers constantly increasing over the past 5-10 and statistics to support this. Although, this could be argued as although these numbers are growing with an apparent spike recently and despite the efforts made and funding invested into this problem, figures are still lower now than the early 2000s. If more is not done to stop this problem from growing, this problem could rapidly become more of a pandemic than ever before.