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About homelessness

Homelessness is devastating, dangerous and isolating.

On average, homeless people die at just 47 years old.

People sleeping on the street are almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence. More than one in three people sleeping rough have been deliberately hit or kicked or experienced some other form of violence whilst homeless.

Homeless people are over nine times more likely to take their own life than the general population.

What causes homelessness?

People become homeless for lots of different reasons. There are social causes of homelessness, such as a lack of affordable housing, poverty and unemployment; and life events which cause individuals to become homeless.

People can become homeless when they leave prison, care or the army with no home to go to. Many homeless women have escaped a violent relationship.

Many people become homeless because they can no longer afford the rent.

And for many, life events like a relationship breaking down, losing a job, mental or physical health problems, or substance misuse can be the trigger. Being homeless can in turn make many of these problems even harder to resolve.

How many people are homeless?

There is no national figure for how many people are homeless across the UK. This is because homelessness is recorded differently in each nation, and because many homeless people do not show up in official statistics at all.

Government street counts and estimates give a snapshot of the national situation. The latest figures showed that 4,134 people slept rough across England on any given night in 2016 - a 16% increase compared to the previous year, and more than double the amount in 2010.

Last year 59,090 households were accepted as homeless in England. In Scotland, 28,247 applications were assessed as homeless and in Wales 7,128 households were threatened with homelessness.

While these numbers are shocking, we don’t think they represent a problem that’s too big to solve. Find out more about our plan to end homelessness once and for all.

Types of homelessness

Rough sleeping

Rough sleeping is the most visible form of homelessness, and when most people think of a homeless person they tend to think of someone sleeping rough on the streets. Many people who sleep rough will suffer from multiple health conditions, such as mental health problems and drug misuse they are also in greater danger of violence than the general population.

Statutory homelessness

Local authorities have a duty to secure a home for some groups of people. This is often referred to as the main homelessness duty. Every year, tens of thousands of people apply to their local authority for homelessness assistance.

To be legally defined as homeless you must either lack a secure place in which you are entitled to live or not reasonably be able to stay. However, in order to receive assistance under the main homelessness duty, there are further strict criteria that you have to meet. Local authorities may initially provide temporary accommodation to households who might meet these criteria, mainly families with children.

Hidden homelessness

Many people who are not entitled to help with housing, or who don’t even approach their councils for help, aren’t counted in the official statistics.  

Many stay in hostels, squats or B&Bs, in overcrowded accommodation or ‘concealed' housing, such as the floors or sofas of friends and family.

Find out more about different types of homelessness

What you can do

Join our Everybody In campaign to end homelessness.