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About homelessness

Homelessness: causes, types and facts

Homelessness is devastating, dangerous and isolating.

The average age of death for people experiencing homelessness is 46 for men and 42 for women.

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.

Find out more about the impacts of homelessness.

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 push people into homelessness.

People are forced into homelessness when they leave prison, care or the army with no home to go to. Many women experiencing homelessness have escaped a violent or abusive 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 put people under considerable strain. Being homeless can, in turn, make many of these problems even harder to resolve. However, in nearly all cases homelessness is preventable and in every case it can be ended.

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To find out more about the factors that contribute to homelessness please read:

How many people are homeless in the UK?

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 people experiencing homelessness do not show up in official statistics at all.

Crisis carries out an annual study in response to concerns that many people experiencing homelessness are not being accurately recorded in official statistics.

Known as core homelessness, it includes rough sleeping, people living in sheds, garages and other unconventional buildings, sofa surfing, hostels and unsuitable temporary accommodation such as B&Bs.

On any given night, tens of thousands of families and individuals are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness across Great Britain. This includes more than 200,000 households in England alone.

For the last five years, ‘core’ homelessness has been rising each year in England. Homelessness reached a peak in 2019, when the numbers of homeless households jumped from 207,600 in 2018 to over 219,000 at the end of 2019.

By the end of 2021, 227,000 households across Britain were experiencing core homelessness. (Source: Heriot Watt University research). If nothing changes, in 2023, 300,000 households could face the worst forms of homelessness. (Source: The Homelessness Monitor Great Britain, 2022)

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The Homelessness Monitor is a longitudinal study providing an independent analysis of the homelessness impacts of recent economic and policy developments in the UK.

Which city in the UK has the most people who are homeless?

In London, over 57,000 households were homeless or at risk of homelessness last year. This is more than in any other region or city in England. 

While London experiences the highest levels of homelessness in England, this is not an issue that is unique to the capital.

Statutory homelessness data isn’t directly comparable across the UK, so cities across the four nations cannot be compared. 

Types of homelessness

Rough sleeping

Rough sleeping is the most visible and dangerous form of homelessness. The longer someone experiences rough sleeping the more likely they are to face challenges around trauma, mental health and drug misuse.

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. This is why Crisis carries out its annual study on core homelessness.

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

At risk of homelessness

Some people are more at risk of being pushed into homelessness than others. People in low paid jobs, living in poverty and poor quality or insecure housing are more likely to experience homelessness.

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