Homeless people suffer from a wide range of complex issues and challenges. This includes problems relating to mental health, substance misuse and housing. Almost all of these problems are linked to poverty.
In some cases homelessness is the result of specific events, such as relationship breakdown or the loss of a job. In many others it is caused by a combination of factors, such as a lack of affordable housing and high levels of poverty. Homelessness is also often a long-term problem. This means that those who experience it will need ongoing support to tackle their problems and regain stability.
The problem of homelessness is widespread and difficult to solve. It can affect almost anyone. Those who experience it are often stigmatised and their lives are extremely difficult, with little hope of a better future. This can be particularly true for those who are vulnerable, such as children, older people or those who have experienced domestic violence.
Currently, the majority of those who are homeless in England are single adults. However, the number of families experiencing homelessness is rising. This is a very serious issue and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
There is no national figure for how many people are homeless, partly because homelessness is defined differently in each nation and partly because many homeless people do not approach their local authority for help or do not show up in official statistics. Nevertheless, Crisis carries out an annual study of core homelessness, which is defined as living on the streets, in sheds or garages, tents and other unconventional dwellings, sofa surfing, staying with friends or family or in temporary accommodation such as hostels.
To be considered homeless you must be without a permanent or adequate place to sleep. This is a legal definition. Local authorities have a duty to provide support and assistance for those who meet this definition. However, the vast majority of those who are homeless do not fit this criteria or do not access support services. This is why we carry out this study to find out what is happening to this group of people.
The study will focus on the key issues affecting homelessness: definitions, prevalence, causes and what needs to be done to address it. It will also look at the different subpopulations of homeless people, including individual adult men and women, families with children, runaway and throwaway youths, elderly homeless people and those living in rural areas.
The research will include a qualitative component, including interviews with people who have been homeless or are at risk of doing so and with those who work in the field of homelessness. It will explore how the current system is failing to meet the needs of these people and will make recommendations for changes. It will be informed by the findings of previous studies and by an extensive review of recent scholarly literature.