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HIDDEN HOMELESSNESS

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Imagine a world where food is a struggle to obtain, hygiene is a forgotten afterthought, and safety is desperately hoped for.  While this may sound like the backdrop for dystopian literature, it is instead the tragic reality for so many people. There are countless people in this world who live without a permanent shelter over their heads or enough money to purchase the basic essentials of life, such as food, hygienic materials, or clothing. These people, regardless of circumstance, are collectively called the homeless. They all share the same name, no two situations are alike. When people in industrialized civilizations think of homelessness, they generally imagine third‐world countries where poverty is rampant.  While this is a valid example of homelessness, the problem exists in nearly every country in the world. 

Constructed Source | HOMELESSNESS IS A HUMAN TRAGEDY

Hidden Homelessness is one of those issues that can feel utterly intractable. Vast and complicated, it is all too easy to fall prey to the belief that it cannot be solved, that it is a problem that will always be with us. Yet the last few years have been a source of great hope for those of us working to tackle homelessness. We have learned that it is possible to intervene and halt the downward spiral of poverty, exclusion, and social isolation. Hidden Homelessness is the problem of single homeless people who exist out of sight in hostels, bed and breakfasts, squats, or with friends and family. It is a problem that is growing, but one that can be solved. The first step is to recognize the true nature and scale of homelessness. The second is to develop policies that address the full range of problems facing homeless people and to deliver services that are built around people rather than problems, with the goal of reintegrating the most vulnerable back into society.

Establish and Conduct

  • Establish a Hidden Homeless Unit.
  • Conduct a Hidden Homeless Census.
  • Undertake a fundamental review of local authorities’ responsibilities for homeless people.
  • Establish a New Deal for single homeless people.
  • Reform the working tax credit by removing the restrictions related to working hours and age so that it is the same for single people as it is for families.
  • Relax the Housing Benefit rules so that it can run on for a period after the person finds work, even if they have not been continuously claiming benefits for the previous six months.
  • Invest in a nationwide life skills program for single homeless people.
  • Reform the rule that says that anyone over the age of 18 cannot claim housing benefits if they are studying for more than 16 hours.
  • Review the supply of social housing available to single homeless people.
  • Reform the rates and administrative rules of Housing benefits so that they work effectively for single homeless people.
  • Set up a National Rent Deposit Scheme.
  • Ensure that all GP services are equipped with the knowledge and resources to enable them to tackle the health needs of homeless people.
  • Launch a nationwide drive to increase the number of single homeless people registered with a GP. Improve single homeless people’s access to specialist health care, including mental health services and drug detox.
  • Ensure that homeless people are adequately protected against anti-social behavior and crime by undertaking a review of current policy and practice in these areas.
  • Set up a nationwide program of advice and support to enable homeless people to sustain their tenancies.
  • Develop and invest in new models of affordable housing designed to provide single homeless people with the opportunity to reintegrate back into society.

Whilst the government has had substantial success in reducing the number of people sleeping rough and tackling the problem of families living in bed and breakfast accommodation, there is one group of homeless people whose numbers continue to grow. They are the single homeless. Single homelessness is the problem of homeless people without dependent children. The nature of homelessness legislation means that, despite their vulnerability, this is a group who are all too often denied access to appropriate housing and support.

Not everyone who is homeless approaches their local authority for help. Some are unaware of their entitlements, some do not bother applying because their entitlements are so slight. Others are too vulnerable to look for help and some simply slip through the net. They exist out of sight in hostels, bed and breakfast accommodation, or living with friends and family. The fact that the majority do not sleep rough means that they are all too often invisible to the public and are rarely recognized as a priority for decision-makers.

Those affected are amongst the most vulnerable people in our society, homeless as a result of unemployment, relationship breakdown, mental ill-health, substance misuse, or any combination of these factors. Finding a way out is extremely difficult. Homelessness is an incredibly damaging experience; it erodes confidence and skills and creates numerous barriers that block the way back to an independent and fulfilling life. All too often though, single homeless people have been missed out. It is time that this changed. Tackling the problem of single homelessness is a necessary and logical evolution of government policy and will represent recognition of one of the most neglected groups of our time.

Recommendations upon Overarching Principles

Homelessness is about more than a roof

People become and stay homeless for a whole range of complex and overlapping reasons. In turn, solving homelessness is about much more than putting a roof over people’s heads.

Tackling homelessness requires individualized solutions

We must recognize the full impact of homelessness and address the range of problems that it can create, designing packages of support around individuals, not problems. Reintegration should be the long-term goal of all homelessness policies. All homelessness policies should have as their ultimate goal the aim of reintegrating homeless people back into society by helping them to reskill, find work and build positive social networks.

First steps

Tackling Hidden Homelessness requires a new approach to homelessness. An approach that recognizes and seeks to understand the true scale and nature of homelessness today and sets out to develop long-term solutions.

Establish a Hidden Homeless Unit

A Hidden Homeless Unit would offer focus and leadership in developing our knowledge and understanding of Hidden Homelessness, co-ordinate a national policy, and ensure the implementation of joined-up solutions.

Conduct a Hidden Homeless Census

A Hidden Homeless Census would involve a count of the numbers of Hidden Homeless people and allow us to identify who they are, where they are, and what kinds of problems they face, providing the facts and figures that will allow the development of effective policy solutions. It is a definition that should ensure appropriate housing and assistance to all who need it. In practice, however, this is not what happens as every year thousands of vulnerable people continue to slip through the net. The majority of these are single people. Unlike people with dependents, single people are often not entitled to a local authority’s primary duty towards homeless people, namely to provide them with accommodation. Access to housing is decided on the basis of perceived vulnerability. This is a category of need that is notoriously open to interpretation, with studies showing that assessments of vulnerability are applied inconsistently between different local authorities and in some cases may even contravene statutory guidance.

Frontline homelessness worker

Recent years have seen significant improvements to the homelessness legislation with clearer guidance on local authority responsibilities towards single homeless people. However, there remains a deep legislative bias against single people who often struggle to prove their vulnerability and gain access to social housing. When combined with the overall rise in homelessness, shortages of housing, and high levels of need the result is a continued failure to tackle the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Although there is a clear need for increased resources and a better understanding of the problems of homelessness – one of the long-term issues that need to be addressed is local authorities’ legal responsibilities to single homeless people. The example set by some really active organizations may offer a way forward, here the new homelessness act has set the goal of abolishing the test for priority need, and where all homeless people – single people as well as families – have been entitled to accommodation since September 2002.

Work and Pay

Single homeless people suffer from high levels of unemployment. For example, it is estimated that around 90% of people living in hostels do not have paid work and a recent survey of homeless people in temporary accommodation came up with a similar proportion. The lack of work is a major cause and consequence of homelessness, eroding skills and self-esteem and acting as a practical obstacle to finding and keeping a home. Yet most homeless people have worked at some point in their lives and most are desperate to do so again. A survey revealed a diversity of skills and experience with two in three of those questioned having worked before becoming homeless. Research has shown that even amongst rough sleepers more than half are actively looking for work and one in eight are actually in work.

The stigma of homelessness, poor skills, and low self-esteem combined with the practical difficulties that many homeless people have finding and keeping work mean that they are often trapped in a state of unemployment for years on end. Work for those who can be getting homeless people back to work requires an approach that is tailored to their specific circumstances and needs. The barriers to getting into paid work are often simple and practical, for example; having access to a telephone or finding somewhere to write an application form. Often there is a need to re-build skills and self-confidence. Chaotic lives, low self-esteem, and poor skills mean that for many homeless people employment is not an immediate option. Where this is the case people need to be offered a stepping stone approach to getting back to work, with meaningful activity as an interim step towards the longer-term goal of paid work. Single homeless people suffer from high levels of unemployment.

Solutions

Single homeless people need practical and tailored advice and support that will help them to find and keep working in the long term. However, the nature of their experience, a chaotic lifestyle, poor skills, and low self-esteem often mean that they are excluded from existing services.

Establish a New Deal for single homeless people

As well as addressing the specific problems associated with homelessness, a New Deal for single homeless people would recognize the difficulties that some of the most vulnerable have in dealing with bureaucracy and it would build its services around their particular needs. Those who are not yet ready for work would be encouraged to build skills and self-esteem through meaningful activities and volunteering programs.

Reform the working tax credit by removing the restrictions related to working hours and age so that it is the same for single people as it is for families. Tax credits are a major Government initiative for helping to ensure that work pays. However, unlike families, adults without children have to work at least 30 hours a week and be aged 25 or over to qualify. This means that many single homeless working people do not qualify, given that many working homeless people may often only be working part-time and that homelessness disproportionately affects young people.

Relax the Housing Benefit rules so that it can run on for a period after the person finds work even if they have not been continuously claiming benefits for the previous six months. Recent reforms to Housing benefits mean that it does not immediately stop when a person finds work. But this is currently restricted to those who were previously claiming Income Support or JobSeeker’s Allowance for at least six months and only if the job lasts for five weeks or more, both restrictions disproportionately affect vulnerable single homeless people.

Learning and Skills

Single homeless people suffer from disproportionately low levels of education and poor or inappropriate skills both of which act as major barriers to reintegration into society. Studies have shown that as few as a quarter have reached Level Two (GCSE level) compared to a national average of two-thirds. Approximately half of the young homeless people have no qualifications compared to 5% of the population as a whole. In addition, the experience of becoming and remaining homeless often has the effect of eroding the kind of basic life skills that most of us take for granted, undermining people’s confidence and self-esteem. Independent living skills such as cooking, budgeting, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle as well as communication skills can all be damaged by the loneliness and isolation of homelessness.

Helping single homeless people to gain the education and skills necessary to escape homelessness means looking at learning in its broadest sense and providing them with variety and choice beyond standard qualifications. It means providing the right kind of services and ensuring that the most vulnerable have access to them.

Solutions

Invest in a nationwide life skills program for single homeless people. Despite growing recognition of the importance of life skills single homeless people continue to struggle to find the support that they need to build basic skills. Working with the voluntary sector, the government should offer a program of life skills training specially targeted at single homeless people. Reform the rule that says that anyone over the age of 18 cannot claim Housing benefits if they are studying more than 16 hours. Many homeless people are keen to study and gain qualifications but are prevented from doing so by a system of housing benefits that withdraws financial support for people studying more than 16 hours a week. Single homeless people suffer from disproportionately low levels of education and poor or inappropriate skills both of which act as major barriers to reintegration into society.

Skylight Activity Centre

A center where homeless people take part in free practical and creative workshops ranging from bicycle repair to performing arts. They have opportunities to build on existing skills or develop new ones, discover and grow talents and abilities, learn from one another, and meet new people. Activities are open to all and encourage homeless people to integrate with the general public.

Changing Lives

Crisis Changing Lives provides financial and mentoring support to help people who are homeless or settling into a new home realize their ambitions. It was set up to provide individuals who have experienced exclusion through homelessness with a chance to take control of their lives again. The financial awards can be used for buying equipment or attending training courses and over 370 have been allocated to date.

Housing

The spiraling cost of accommodation combined with the complexities of the Housing Benefit system may mean that they end up trapped in temporary accommodation for years on end. For those who are given the chance of independent living, all too often the lack of support and a sense of loneliness and isolation means that they are unable to maintain their tenancy. Furthermore, on current trends, the situation for single homeless people is likely to get worse. The number of single households of working age has grown rapidly and continually over the last 30 years from 1.1 million in 1971 to 3.7 million in 2003. But over the same period, the number of one-bedroom houses built each year has fallen continually from forty-four thousand in 1971 to eight thousand in 2003. Furthermore, the total stock of socially rented housing has declined from 6.6 million in 1981 to 5.1 million in 2002,24 and average house prices have been rising faster than average earnings. Even for those who are on relatively good incomes, finding the right kind of housing can be a difficult experience; for single homeless people, it is almost impossible.

More than a Roof

There are three challenges to housing single homeless people. The first is to ensure an adequate supply of appropriate housing. The second is to provide access to this housing. The third is to ensure the kind of support that is necessary for the most vulnerable to find and keep a tenancy.

Solutions

Review the supply of social housing available to single homeless people. The Barker Review recently concluded that there was a shortage of social housing. This shortage affects single people the most as they are often at the bottom of the queue. Reform the rates and administrative rules of Housing benefits so that they work effectively for single homeless people. Current Housing Benefit rules can make it difficult for single people to afford reasonable accommodation. It is also well known that Housing Benefit administration often does not work effectively, particularly for homeless people.

Set up a National Rent Deposit Scheme

Developing and implementing a National Rent Deposit Scheme designed to help homeless people would improve their access to the private rented sector.  Set up a nationwide program of advice and support to enable homeless people to sustain their tenancies Once rehoused, vulnerable single homeless people often struggle to maintain their tenancies – providing them with advice and support with independent living is critical to their long-term reintegration. Develop and invest in new models of affordable housing designed to provide single homeless people with the opportunity to reintegrate back into society. We need to look at housing solutions that combine accommodation with the networks and support that will allow homeless people to live and work as part of the broader community.

Smartmove

Crisis Smartmove provides homeless or vulnerable housed people with comprehensive housing advice and access to good quality accommodation in the private sector. It offers landlords a guarantee in place of the traditional deposit. It can also provide the tenants with ongoing support and advice to enable them to sustain their tenancies, as well as befriending support from volunteers for new tenants who may be living independently for the first time

The Urban Village

The Urban Village project will house 400 people, half of whom have been homeless and the other half of whom are key workers. It aims to create a mixed community with support services such as counseling, employment training, and benefits advice available on-site.

Health

Studies have consistently shown that levels of poor health are far higher amongst homeless people than in the general population. Poor health is intricately linked to homelessness. Overcrowded, cold, damp, and unsanitary living conditions are highly conducive to physical and mental ill-health. In addition, many homeless people suffer from multiple health problems with physical and mental ill-health combined with drink and drug addiction. Crisis research has shown that nearly one in fifty homeless people have Tuberculosis – twenty-five times the national average and at least one in five homeless people suffer from mental health problems. In addition, four out of five homeless people interviewed by Crisis for a recent report were addicted to either drink or drugs. A comprehensive study of the health of homeless people, compared with that of the general population found that homeless people living in hostels and B&Bs were eight times more likely to suffer from mental ill-health than the general population. Chronic chest infections were twice as high and experiences of fits and loss of consciousness were five times as high.

Many of the health issues facing homeless people are at least treatable and some preventable. Despite this, and a number of initiatives designed to improve general access to health services, homeless people’s access to primary healthcare remain limited. The problem is amplified for those with multiple health needs. For example, Crisis research revealed that the high levels of vulnerability and the stigma associated with homelessness meant that single homeless people were forty times more likely not to be registered with a GP than the average person.

Healthy Living

Providing homeless people with access to suitable primary health care is an essential step towards their reintegration into mainstream society. Ensure that all GP services are equipped with the knowledge and resources to enable them to tackle the health needs of homeless people. GP services are the cornerstone of the NHS and the heart of primary health care but the evidence shows that many single homeless people struggle to access their services. Launch a nationwide drive to increase the number of single homeless people registered with their GP. Improve single homeless people’s access to specialist health care including mental health services and drug treatment services.

Overcrowding, poor housing, rough sleeping, and problems such as drug addiction, physical and mental ill-health, and relationship breakdown mean that single homeless people often suffer from disproportionately high levels of crime, violence, and anti-social behavior. For example, rough sleepers are fifteen times more likely to experience assault than the general population and thirty-five times more likely to be victims of wounding. Domestic violence is widely acknowledged as a major cause of homelessness and a recent study by Crisis and the Countryside Agency points to potential hazards or threatening conditions endured by individuals relying upon friends and family for accommodation.

Yet all too often the focus of law enforcement and anti-social behavior policy is upon homeless people. They are seen as perpetrators of crime and anti-social behavior rather than its victims, with an increasing trend toward the surveillance and policing of people who are visibly homeless. Police often seem to assume patterns of low–level crime by individuals who are homeless, and conversely, people who are homeless often assume the police will harass them and that they will receive little or no meaningful assistance. This dynamic may impact heavily on the reporting of violent acts and anti-social behavior and hinder the introduction of preventive efforts.

More Solution Dynamics and Public Surveys | HOMELESSNESS, SUBSTANCE ABUSE, ENCOURAGEMENT

Towards a new understanding

Protecting vulnerable single homeless people from violence, crime, and anti-social behavior is essential. There are two ways in which we can do this: the first is to create a greater understanding of homelessness and the problems that it brings with it, and the second is to create a more appropriate balance between enforcement and support. Undertake a review of the current policy and practice to ensure that homeless people are adequately protected against anti-social behavior and crime. Heartache Remembrance to Every Day Homelessness. Get together for them!

Constructed Sources | HOMELESSNESS | NOTION OF SOCIETY TOWARD HOMELESSNESS | LIVING HOMELESS LIFE

SOCIAL GOOD MESSAGE

Sparrows by morning, live in peaceful nests! Design shouldn’t dominate things, shouldn’t dominate people. It should help people. Don’t spend your time solving your favorite problems, solve problems that need to be solved, generically. A home is a place where you live, and society is a place where your story begins. Honesty shares honesty, as it is honesty’s nature. Stay always in Ablution and get back to the trust you have been, with.

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