Guest blog by Sophie Radford.
Homelessness is on the rise for the first time since 2017 according to government statistics published earlier this year.
Despite the Government’s target of ending rough sleeping by 2024 with the Ending Rough Sleeping for Good strategy, things are only getting worse. Whilst at first glance it may appear that rough sleeping has decreased, that’s not the case. Since 2010, the number of people sleeping rough on a single night has increased by a horrifying 74%. The various factors that have contributed to this sharp increase will be explored in this blog.
The cost of living crisis is plunging people into deep poverty
The ‘Cost of Living Crisis’ has made it extremely difficult for low-income households to cover their basic living needs. An ONS study published last month has revealed that consumer goods and services rose by 9.6% in a year, since October 2022. The charity Crisis, has predicted that low-income households will need to spend an average of 133% of their income to cover basic needs, including rent, food and energy. This leads to an impossible situation, with people plunging deeper into debt, unable to afford life’s essentials.
Health inequalities create a future tax burden
The increasing cost of living and rising food prices are likely to mean that people become more reliant on lower cost foods which tend to be calorie-dense and nutrient-poor, further increasing obesity and other diet-related diseases. Alternatively they may skip meals all together, which can have even worse long-term effects on health, such as muscular weakness, a decrease in bone density and cognitive issues as the brain goes into survival mode due to lack of nutrients. Aside from creating a barrier to achievement and productivity, this also means that the burden on health services becomes greater, as does the cost to the taxpayer.
The link between housing security and mental stability
Many people who are struggling to make ends meet, have to look towards more affordable or temporary housing. Due to the lack of affordable housing across the whole of the UK, people who need access to temporary housing are forced to move frequently, or worse – sleep rough. This instability and uncertainty means they are much less likely to be able to remain in work or education and it becomes harder to find employment of any kind. A study published by Shelter has found that living in temporary accommodation has a detrimental impact on people’s health.
Almost two-thirds of people say that living in temporary accommodation has had a negative impact on their mental health, such as increased anxiety, social phobia and major depression as individuals become excluded from society.
There is simply not enough affordable housing
Housing is unaffordable for many. House prices in the UK increased by 4.1% on average from March 2022 to March 2023 according to a study published by The Office of National Statistics (ONS). Despite rented accommodation usually being more relevant for those facing homelessness, increasing house prices also leads to a rise in rental costs. The same ONS study showed that rental costs across the UK increased by 4.9% from March 2022 to March 2023. That means it is a much less viable option for people at risk of becoming homeless. Private rental prices increased by 5.3% from July 2022 to July 2023. This is a serious issue; due to the lack of social housing, more and more people are relying on the private sector.
In the first 3 months of this year, a staggering 80,000 households in England contacted their local council for support, as they were at risk of becoming homeless. Unfortunately, a large number of these households became homeless, as councils do not have enough genuinely affordable housing available.
People are in survival mode
Vulnerable members of society are hit the hardest by the ‘Cost of Living Crisis’ and lack of affordable housing. Individuals are forced to spend all their time, energy and money on trying to stay afloat, rather than being able to focus on finding better paid / stable work, higher quality permanent accommodation and other things that can improve their overall circumstances. Due to this, people in these situations have to sacrifice valuable aspects of their life that bring happiness, such as being able to spend money on transport to visit friends and family, which further increases mental health problems and isolation.
A perfect storm
Although the ‘Cost of Living Crisis’ and the lack of affordable housing play a significant part in homelessness across the UK, they are not the only causes. Poor mental or physical health, addiction, high unemployment rates, the breakdown of a relationship and many other factors also contribute. It is clear from this that there are many causes of homelessness and now more than ever, it is more important than ever that we view this through the lens of our shared humanity, continue to raise awareness of the issue and understand the wider picture, and the ultimate cost to society if these issues aren’t addressed.
What can we do?
Being homeless doesn’t just mean losing a home, it means losing a complete way of life, family and friends as well as the comfort and safety of a permanent home. Charities are calling out for support and help from businesses to aid people in these situations.
There are numerous ways you can get involved both individually and as an organisation:
- Use your company’s following to publicise homelessness issues in the area, through channels such as Instagram, LinkedIn or Email Marketing. Raising awareness within your company and external network about current causes, issues, available support and charities that can help is invaluable.
- Speak with local councils and authorities, for example encouraging local politicians to commit to targets on the number of affordable homes they will build, or legislation to stop further house / rental price increases.
With many homeless people unemployed, arranging job skills workshops to help provide e.g. CV writing and interview tips will give people a real chance to rebuild their lives through employment.
- Supporting local charities, organising fundraising events and making donations. Especially in the coming winter months, it is very important to provide warm coats, quality shoes and gloves. Homeless people are at a much higher risk than the general population of developing weather exposure-related conditions such as frostbite and
- Volunteering is a great way to get involved and help out, many charities would love to partner up with businesses and arrange group volunteering sessions. Making these accessible to all your employees, e.g. providing staff with a free ‘Volunteering Day’ will engage a greater number of participants, if they don’t have to use holiday days or take unpaid leave.
If you would like to discuss further about how you and your business can get involved and support people who have been pulled into homelessness or forced to sleep rough, please reach out!
Written by our guest Author, Sophie Radford.