‘Barely breaking even’: the experiences and impact of in-work homelessness across Britain
Based on an online survey of 250 employers, as well as digital ethnography and interviews with 34 people with lived experience of in-work homelessness across Britain, the report reveals how poorly paid, insecure work – alongside a lack of affordable housing – is leaving people trapped in homelessness.
- Recent changes in the labour market and economy have led to an increase in low paid, unpredictable and insecure work.
- For many people, these combined pressures of low pay and high living and housing costs have increased the risk of homelessness. In the last 12 months, 22 per cent of households facing homelessness in England had at least one person in-work.
- For people who are working whilst experiencing homelessness, the nature of their jobs - often temporary or zero-hour contracts, and short-term via agencies - made it very difficult to afford basic living costs including rent.
- Finding affordable accommodation was hard once participants were homeless. Rental properties were out of reach due to increasing and high rents, alongside landlord and agent reluctance to let to welfare claimants and those on insecure work contracts.
- Working without a home meant everyday activities like eating, commuting, sleeping and personal hygiene were very difficult. They caused anxiety and put pressure on people’s ability to work.
- The stigma and shame associated with homelessness often forced people to conceal their situation. At one extreme, some people reported losing their jobs when their employer did find out – but there were also positive examples where people confided with their manager or colleagues and received support.
- Working without a home had a detrimental impact on people’s health, mental well-being and relationships. The lack of certainty and assurance of having somewhere to come back to after a day’s work and recuperate meant the stress and strain quickly mounted. Finding the energy and motivation to keep looking for a better paid or more secure job was difficult.
- Employers have a narrower understanding of what homelessness is compared to the general public, despite many claiming to have employed someone facing homelessness.
- Worryingly, there is evidence of possible discrimination against workers facing homelessness: over two fifths (42%) cent said it was likely their organisation would seek to terminate an employee’s contract if they were homeless. Over half (58%) said it was likely homelessness would have a negative impact on a prospective employee’s application and a detrimental effect on a current employee’s job (56%).
- There was, however, evidence of employers being supportive to employees at risk of or experiencing homelessness – yet in terms of formal policies, 44 per cent did not have any policies to support employees currently experiencing homelessness
- Encouragingly, it was clear that employers wanted to learn more and know what to do to better support staff who are homeless or at risk of becoming so.
You can watch this video which reflects on the experiences of being in-work while homeless.
Sanders, B. and Allard, M. (2021) ‘Barely breaking even’: the experiences and impact of in-work homelessness across Britain. London: Crisis.