HOMELESSNESS IS A LOT MORE COMMON THAN MANY PEOPLE REALISE. NATIONAL CHARITY SHELTER REPORT THAT 117 FAMILIES IN THE UK BECOME HOMELESS EVERY DAY.
CENTREPOINT, A NATIONAL CHARITY FOR YOUNG HOMELESS PEOPLE, STATE THAT 83,000 YOUNG PEOPLE EXPERIENCE HOMELESSNESS IN THE UK EVERY YEAR.
Homelessness takes many forms. A person is considered to be homeless if the place they are living is not safe or not permanent or is in some other way unsuitable. If you are experiencing difficulty in finding suitable accommodation, you should speak to your local Council Housing Options Team (see Service Directory), or, if you are under 18 to Social Services for advice and guidance.
The most visible form of homelessness is life on the streets – people who have no access to accommodation.
People who sofa-surf don’t always recognise that they are homeless – they spend periods of time sleeping on sofas, floors or spare beds of friends and family members but have no permanent residence.
This accommodation, while it means you won’t have to sleep rough, is not permanent or long-term accommodation.
EVEN WITH A ROOF OVER YOUR HEAD…
Even people who do have accommodation may be considered to be homeless. If you are living in accommodation that is unsuitable because it is:
- in a poor condition that is affecting your self
- a place where you have no legal right to stay
- a place where you are at risk of abuse and/or violence.
Sometimes homelessness happens suddenly – a flood or fire, unexpected eviction or loss of income for example, can leave someone who was previously in settled accommodation without a place to live. For many other people, circumstances that take place over a longer period of time can culminate in homelessness.
At Broxtowe Youth Homelessness, we hear many different accounts of how young people find themselves homeless. Every story is different. It is common to hear of people “choosing to be homeless” or having “done something wrong”, assuming that the person could have prevented homelessness by working harder or behaving differently.
Our volunteers challenge these preconceptions through Peer Impact – telling their stories of what really happened for them.
STATISTICALLY, THE THREE MOST COMMON CAUSES OF HOMELESSNESS ARE:
- PARENTS, FRIENDS OR FAMILY ARE UNWILLING OR UNABLE TO ACCOMMODATE
- RELATIONSHIP BREAKDOWN (INCLUDING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE)
- LOSS OF A SHORTHOLD TENANCY
Factors that contribute to becoming homeless include the circumstances of the individual – lack of qualifications, relationship breakdown, mental health, lack of support and debt are all common factors.
The family background of the person also has an impact – family breakdown, abuse and violence in the home, parental drug/alcohol abuse, parental mental illness can leave a person without adequate support.
If someone has been in care, in prison or in the Armed Forces for a period of time they may have an increased risk of homelessness.
Leaving home is a big step and young people often face problems they didn’t anticipate:
- Not being ready for the responsibility of having their own tenancy
- Money worries and difficulty budgeting
- Issues with house mates
Sometimes it isn’t possible to remain at home, however when it is BYH encourages young people to do so until they can move in a planned, safe, affordable way.
IN A HURRY
At BYH, we encourage young people to stay at home until they are able to move out in a planned, safe, affordable way. However, in some circumstances this is not safe or possible.
If you are living in an environment in which you are not safe, you are entitled to assistance.
Contact your local Council – they have a duty to help anyone fleeing domestic violence to find safe accommodation – use the Emergency Out of Hours number if you need to.
Contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline for free on 0808 2000 247. They can provide advice and support and assistance in finding safe emergency accommodation.
Call Shelter’s free National Helpline on 0808 800 4444 (8am-8pm Mon-Fri, 8am-5pm at the weekend).
WHAT TO TAKE
DO NOT RISK YOUR SAFETY TO COLLECT BELONGINGS, HOWEVER, EVEN IF YOU NEED TO GET OUT IN HURRY, TRY TO HAVE THESE ITEMS WITH YOU IF POSSIBLE:
- Money, bank account details, debit/credit cards
- Identification: your birth certificate, passport, driving licence etc.
- Details of any welfare benefit you receive
- Practical items – clothing, toiletries, medication
- If you have a child/children, clothing, food and a small toy/comforter
Women’s Aid have compiled the following information on making a safety plan if you are living with domestic abuse, you can find it here: https://www.womensaid.org.uk/the-survivors-handbook/making-a-safety-plan/
WHERE TO GET HELP
The most important advice to anybody who is worried that their accommodation is at risk is to get help as early as possible. Many people don’t seek advice because they do not believe they are entitled to help or because they are able to find temporary accommodation with friends or family. It is always worth talking through your situation – whether you are considered statutorily homeless or not, you are entitled to advice and guidance.
In the Service Directory you can find a list of local and national services that can advise you.
If you are over 18, get in touch with the Housing Options Team at your local Council. You will be able to speak to an advisor about your circumstances and your eligibility for emergency accommodation. Even if you are not deemed to be statutorily homeless, you will be offered advice and support to help you access appropriate accommodation.
If you are 16-17 and you are homeless, you are usually entitled to accommodation from Social Services. They will conduct a full assessment of your needs and may offer support with more than just your housing situation – they may support you with your education, finances, mental health support, drug and alcohol support etc. Social Services provide accommodation if you are under 18, homeless and:
- have a disability
- are a care leaver
- have come to the UK from another country and do not have your parent/guardian with you
- are classed as a “child in need” (which you probably are if you are 16/17 and homeless)
If you are aged 16-25 and are concerned about homelessness, or if you are worried about a young person who is facing homelessness, you can get in touch with BYH for advice and support.