Quantifying homelessness is notoriously difficult. First of all, homelessness encompasses a wide group of experiences, from rough sleepers to sofa surfers. Secondly, those who are homeless are a difficult group to identify and measure, particularly because of the large amount of hidden homelessness. The Ministerial Department for Housing, Communities & Local Government, for instance, admits that the estimates of the number of women who are rough sleeping is likely to be a significant underestimate because their vulnerability means they are generally hidden.
Data is unable to do justice to the variety of experiences that homeless people face. However, it can clearly expose some of the key changes that have been happening over the last few years. Below are four crucial trends which everyone should know.
The number of homeless rough sleepers has been rising since 2010
Since 2010 in England, it is estimated that there has been an 141% increase in rough sleepers. Or in other words, for every ten homeless rough sleepers in 2010 there are now twenty-four. This means charities across England supporting those who are homeless rough sleepers need, more than double the resources they needed just ten years ago. As the interactive map below shows, this rise has been taking place across the whole of England, but with particularly large increases in the North West, London and the South East.
More are becoming homeless for an extended period
The Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) produces detailed estimates on the number of rough sleepers in London. One trend that has emerged over the last few years is that the group of homeless people who have been on the street for at least two years has been increasing. The longer an individual remains on the street, the more likely they are to suffer from physical and mental illness, as well as potentially suffering from addiction, all of which require extra support. Urgent action is needed so that this vulnerable group is given the support they need now, but also to help prevent people from having to rough sleep for an extended period.
More homeless people are dying
As we have seen more people rough sleeping, this has put more people at risk of premature death. In 2019 the ONS estimated that there were 778 deaths of those who were rough sleeping or in temporary accommodation. This was the highest figure since records began in 2013. Sadly, these deaths are often preventable; the average age of
death was just 46 for males and 44 for females. Our society should not be one which means that people die if they no longer have a home, particularly when actions and resources could have prevented these deaths. Given these figures it is vital that support for those who are homeless is increased.
The pandemic has made the situation even more urgent
The full impact of the pandemic on homelessness and rough sleeping is yet to realised, the data from CHAIN for the period between for April to June 2020 shows that there has been a 77% increase in new rough sleepers. A survey by Crisis found that 73% of homeless organisations have found an increase in demand for their services. In the early stages of the pandemic, many who were homeless were forced into rough sleeping, and as the pandemic has continued there have been bigger increases in those who have become homeless for the first time. The ending of the eviction ban will exacerbate this; Trust for London estimate that this and the pandemic will cause 45,000 more households will be accepted as homeless.
These statistics are stark and present the sad reality of homelessness in England today. Given the current economic climate, it is unlikely that these trends will stop, and many more people will be pushed into homelessness. However this is not a hopeless situation. Action by government, charities and individuals do make significant difference in helping prevent homelessness and provide support for those who are homeless. You can become part of the solution.
At Clothing Collective, we are responding to this need by providing both clothes and dignity to those who are homeless. Your support through reading this blog, sharing our social media, and supporting us financially, can help to provide clothes for those who are most in need.
You can make donations to the Clothing Collective here.
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