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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 4,134 people sleeping rough in England on a single night in the Autumn of 2016. This was up by 16% on 2015 (source: Rough Sleepers Statistics Autumn 2016, England).

The full picture of rough sleeping across UK is unknown. 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’. (Assessment of compliance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics, 2015).

The London based CHAIN database currently provides the most robust and comprehensive statistics on rough sleeping. This data shows London rough sleeping levels which having risen by 104% to 8,096 since 2010. (CHAIN Annual Report, April 2015 – March 2016).

In temporary accommodation

75,740 households were in temporary accommodation on 31 December 2016. 60,240 of these households included dependent children and/or a pregnant woman. There were 118,960 children or expected children within these families. (Statutory homelessness and prevention and relief, October to December 2016: England)

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

  • night/winter shelters
  • hostels
  • B&Bs
  • woman’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 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).

The majority of homeless people are hidden from statistics and services as they are dealing with their situation informally. This means staying with family and friends, sofa surfing, living in unsuitable housing such as squats or in ‘beds in shed’ situations (Homelessness Monitor: England 2016). All these situations leave the person extremely vulnerable. The majority of the hidden homeless will have slept rough at some time (The hidden truth about homelessness, 2011). 

Statutory homeless

When approaching local authorities for support those deemed in ‘priority need’ are described as being statutory homeless because they are owed a duty by their local authority. In the 2015/16 financial year there were 57,750 households accepted as in priority need (Statutory homelessness, July to September, 2016 DCLG).