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What are the impacts of homelessness?

We all need a safe stable home to build our lives and thrive. Without this foundation, we experience damaging impacts to so many areas of our lives. These include health and wellbeing, work, education, relationships with family and friends and being part of our community.

Homelessness impact on society

In society, our lives are all connected. What hurts one of us hurts all of us meaning that the knock-on impacts of homelessness can be felt throughout our communities. Those of us experiencing homelessness are not isolated figures – we are someone’s child, sibling, neighbour, friend or co-worker.

None of us want to live in a society where homelessness exists – where people are forced onto friends' sofas night after night, in unsuitable temporary accommodation where a family is crammed into one room or people are left with no option but to sleep on our streets or on public transport. The harm homelessness causes to an individual is significant – but this harm also ripples across society.

Homelessness also places immense pressure on some of the support services we all rely on. For example, by failing to provide adequate housing support to people at risk of homelessness councils with no other option but to place people in expensive and unsuitable temporary accommodation if they are facing homelessness.

Impact of homelessness on employment

It is harder to get and maintain employment when we are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

For those of us closest to the brink, the constant build-up of pressures such as rising energy bills, trying to find genuinely affordable accommodation, insecure work or being served an eviction notice from our landlord can put us under great strain. Dealing with these immense pressures, can impact our physical and mental health and makes things like job-hunting or focusing at work much harder.

Working without a safe, decent home means everyday activities like eating, commuting, sleeping and personal hygiene become much more difficult. When our basic human needs aren’t met, it impacts on our health and puts pressure on our ability to work.

The impacts of homelessness make maintaining work very difficult and potential job loss will only leave people already experiencing tough financial pressure trapped in this situation.

Stigma and discrimination mean many of us will not feel comfortable safe disclosing our situation to current or potential employers. This prevents us from accessing any supports or reasonable adjustments our employer may offer. Sadly, our 2021 research on in-work homelessness shows evidence of possible discrimination against workers facing homelessness.

Read the full research report to better understand the causes and impacts of in work homelessness.

How are relationships affected by homelessness?

We all rely on connections with friends and family but difficulty maintaining relationships is one of the issues we often hear about from people coming to us for support.

There is still a lot of shame and stigma around homelessness so for many people if they do become homeless they may distance themselves from their friends and family to avoid any potential judgement or if they feel that the other person is not able to relate to their issues.

For others, the emotional and mental toll that homelessness can take on a person means that they may not have the brain space to maintain friendships or family relationships, even if this is unintentional.

There are also practical challenges to maintaining a relationship when experiencing homelessness – we hear often of people not being able to afford train tickets to visit their children, not having a consistent phone number for people to contact them on or the only accommodation on offer to them being in a completely different town or city to their local area. All of these factors can greatly erode the relationships of a person experiencing homelessness.

Impacts of homelessness on health

We all need a safe, affordable home to build our lives and thrive. Without one, this can put incredible strain on people’s physical and mental health and leave them with multiple illness and injuries that could have been managed or completely avoided if they had the foundation of a home.

People experiencing homelessness are more likely to experience health conditions such as tuberculosis, heart disease and asthma than someone who has a safe and secure home. This is also true for mental health conditions which people facing homelessness are far more likely to experience.

All of these can be both a cause and consequence of homelessness, often being worsened by factors like the stress of housing insecurity and poor conditions in accommodation such as damp and mould.

To put it simply, homelessness cuts lives short. For men experiencing homelessness the average age of death is just 45, and for women it is just 43 (Office of National Statistics) – meaning without a safe home people are dying decades before their time. This is simply unacceptable.

What is the impact of homelessness on children?

It is unacceptable that any child faces homelessness in our society. Currently homelessness support in the UK classes families with children as ‘priority need’ for emergency housing should they find themselves facing homelessness. This means that they are more likely to experience less visible forms of homelessness like sofa surfing, unsuitable temporary accommodation or staying in a refuge rather than street homelessness.

Homelessness can cause a real decline in mental wellbeing for children. Without the safety and stability of a home, children are likely to experience feelings of stress, anxiety and displacement. as well as increased stress and anxiety. If they are without a home in the longer term, they can also be left dealing with serious emotional trauma (Shelter). These mental health impacts of homelessness may also cause negative side effects on physical health too.

There are also practical challenges for things many would take for granted. These include keeping hold of personal possessions, having access to bathroom facilities and a quiet place to complete homework or revise for exams. All of these and more become daily issues for children forced into this situation.

All of the impacts of homelessness on a child’s life will make things like attaining well at school and maintaining relationships – both of which can have major impacts on their future.

How can I help stop homelessness?

Homelessness is not inevitable – we know that a future free from homelessness is entirely within our grasp.

By ending homelessness not only would we avoid the harmful impacts on individuals up and down the country but we would also benefit as a society.

By campaigning for the changes needed to prevent and end homelessness, you will be able to help decisionmakers in our government to take action and ensure the right policies, funding and support are in place to stop more people ending up on the streets. There are lots of different campaigns and ways to get involved so visit our campaigns page to find out more.

You can also support Crisis’ vital services across the country, helping people facing homelessness to leave it behind for good through support with housing, employment and healthcare. By choosing to donate, fundraise, shopping in your local Crisis shop or volunteering your time, you can help end homelessness for good. Find out all the ways you can get involved.