Understanding Homelessness

Linkey believes greater understanding is critical in helping to tackle negative misconceptions around homelessness and encourage awareness around the reality of the problem.

Homelessness is a highly complex issue that takes on many different forms, caused by both personal and structural reasons. This means there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and we must approach the problem from as many angles as possible. Everybody has a different story and it really is true that it could happen to anyone.

Structural causes of homelessness

Half of English councils (49%) and nearly all London boroughs (94%) are struggling to help homeless people find a private home to rent because of the combined effects of rising rent costs and welfare benefit cuts.

Almost two-thirds (64%) report difficulties in helping homeless people access social housing due to a chronic shortage.

More affordable housing and better community support are imperative solutions to homelessness, which is why Linkey works to encourage linking people who care with people who need caring about.

The number of rough sleepers has soared to 4,751 in 2017 (up 15% from 2016) and Crisis predict the real number is actually far higher and will rise to 16,000 by 2026 if nothing changes.

Most shelters only have the capacity to function during the winter months when the weather is most severe.

In order to access overnight shelters, you have to be assessed and referred. Most do not provide emergency shelter.

Hidden homeless

Homelessness gains most attention over the winter period when the conditions outside are more severe. This reflects on people’s attitudes that homelessness is embodied by rough sleeping only, when in reality this is just the tip of the iceberg.

There is also an estimated 300,000 people who live in hostels, temporary shelters or inadequate accommodation, who are classed as hidden homeless. Sofa-surfers are not included in this number.

Personal causes of homelessness

The primary personal reason for homelessness is not drug or alcohol abuse, but relationship breakdown; not having a support system to fall back on when you cannot support yourself.

Traumatic childhood experiences such as abuse, neglect and homelessness are part of most street homeless people's life histories.

There has been a huge shortage of support services as a result of government funding cuts to mental health and wellbeing services.

72% of homeless people have mental health issues.

People with complex needs are at serious risk of falling through the cracks in service provision. There needs to be an integrated response across health, housing and social care.

Impact of homelessness

Some people who have experienced long-term homelessness struggle to cope with living alone even when they are provided with a house, because they are not used to it, which is why community support is essential.

Feelings of isolation and exclusion from society can cause some homeless people to turn to drink and drugs as a coping mechanism.

Homeless mortality is 30 years shorter than for non-homeless individuals, with men dying at an average age of 47 and homeless women at 43 years old.