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The Hidden Truth about Homelessness (2011)

This study provides a shocking review of the experiences of single homeless people and the extent to which they are hidden from support and advice services, absent from homeless statistics and rendered invisible by their housing situations.

Key findings

In total, 62% of respondents were hidden homeless on the night they were surveyed and 92% had experienced hidden homelessness. The key conclusion to emerge from this study, then, is that single homelessness and hidden homelessness are synonymous. In other words, to be a single homeless person in England in the main is to be ‘hidden’ (from support, advice and statistics). Several consequences were found to flow from this:

  • Single homeless people resort to desperate measures to put a roof over their head. The study uncovered evidence of people engaging in sex work to pay for a night in a hotel, committing crimes in the hope of being taken into custody, and forming unwanted sexual partnerships to secure a bed for the night.
  • People who could have promptly exited homelessness, had they received the right assistance, join a population of long-term homeless people with increasing support needs.
  • Vulnerable people whose needs should be met through existing systems of Background and Key Findings support (rough sleeper teams, hostels and such like) are being left without assistance in circumstances severely detrimental to their health and wellbeing.
  • ‘Hidden homelessness’ and the consequences which flow from it can be traced to the lack of assistance single homeless people receive from local authorities. Evidence emerged that single homeless people who may be entitled to accommodation are deterred from applying, many are misinformed about their entitlements, not all are given the opportunity to make a homelessness application, local authorities do not always fulfill their duty to ‘advise and assist’ homeless people, and that when advice or signposting is offered it is of little or no use.
  • The conclusions from this study point to a need for local authorities to improve advice and assistance as well as a broader need to reconceptualise homelessness. Homelessness is not just about people sleeping rough and the thousands of statutory homeless people in temporary accommodation. There is a sizeable group hidden from view in squats, with friends, in police cells, with strangers, or sleeping rough in less visible locations. They are as vulnerable, and their housing situations as precarious as their more visible counterparts.


Reeve, K. (2011) The hidden truth about homelessness: Experiences of single homelessness in England. London: Crisis.