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Types of homelessness

Types of homelessness

Rough sleeping is the most visible form of homelessness but there are a wide range of situations that are also described as homelessness.

Understanding each type of homelessness leads to better support and a better view of homelessness as a whole. Building a picture of the number of people who are homeless is complicated. This is due to the different ways each type is counted and the limitations of each approach.

Rough sleeping

There were an estimated 3,069 people sleeping rough in England on a single night in the Autumn of 2022. This was up by 26% on 2021. (source: Rough sleeping snapshot in England, Autumn 2022).

The full picture of rough sleeping across the UK is unknown. While the Rough Sleeping Count gives an estimated snapshot of rough sleeping. The UK Statistics Authority was highly critical of these statistics, stating that they did not meet the required standards to be designated as ‘National Statistics’.

The London based CHAIN database currently provides the most robust and comprehensive statistics on rough sleeping. This data shows that the number of people having no choice but to sleep rough in London in 22/23 was 10,053, of which 64% were seen sleeping rough for the first time.

There were an estimated 135 individuals sleeping rough throughout Wales at the end of March 2023 (source: Homelessness accommodation provision and rough sleeping: March 2023 | Welsh Government).

In Scotland, over the six-month period 1 April to 30 September 2022, 733 households (4% of all applications) reported rough sleeping the night before making a homelessness application.

In temporary accommodation

At the end of September 2022, there were over 120,000 families and individuals in Great Britain who were staying in temporary accommodation provided by their local council because they didn’t have their own home. This included 98,840 households in England and 14,458 households in Scotland. (sources: DLUHC, Scottish Government, Welsh Government). 

The length of time people can stay in temporary accommodation can range from a single night to many years. There are a number of different types of temporary accommodation:

  • night/winter shelters
  • hostels
  • B&Bs
  • women’s refuges
  • private and social housing

Each type of temporary accommodation has its own rules on access and lengths of stay and may not always be appropriate for the individuals staying in them.

Hidden and 'core' homelessness

62% of respondents were hidden homeless on the day they were surveyed and 92% had experienced hidden homelessness (source: The hidden truth about homelessness, 2011).

Those who experience hidden homelessness are hidden from statistics and services as they are dealing with their situation informally. This means staying with family and friends, sofa surfing, or living in unsuitable housing such as squats or in ‘beds in shed’ situations (The Homelessness Monitor: England 2018). All these situations leave the person extremely vulnerable and many have to sleep rough at some time.

This is one of the reasons why Crisis publishes estimates on 'core' homelessness which on a single night are experienced by 227,000 households in Great Britain. These figures try and show the scale of the worst forms of homelessness and includes some people who are not accessing services or in official government data.

Statutory homelessness

278,110 families and individuals in England were accepted as being owed support by their local council because they were likely to become homeless or were homeless in 2021/22.

For 19,790 people, the main reason they needed support to try to prevent their homelessness was due to them being issued a Section 21 eviction notice by their landlord. This means they had to leave the property due to no fault of their own. (Statutory Homelessness in England 21-22, DLUHC)

In Wales during 2021-22, a total of 20,932 households sought help from council for either being threatened with homeless or currently homeless. (Welsh Government, Homelessness 21-22)

In Scotland between April and September 2022 there were 19,066 applications to councils for assistance. This was a 6% increase on the total for the same period the year before. (Homelessness in Scotland: update to 30 September 2022).


Crisis research

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