Rough sleeping in England and defining homelessness
The UK government published on 31 January 2019 a very disturbing statistic, that rough sleeping in England has increased by 165% since 2010.
This shocking figure comes from a report that provides information on a single night snapshot of rough sleeping in England for autumn 2018.
The findings say that there has been a 2% decrease from 2017, however when comparing the past 8 years overall, there has been a dramatic rise in the total, with the number since 2010 skyrocketing.
The records come from each local authority providing street counts and evidence-based estimates.
The actual figure may be much higher. For example, if the street count was on a night when the weather was extremely cold this may impact the findings, as more people who usually sleep rough may use a night shelter, hostel or be in a location which is more hidden to protect from the severe weather. The report also lists additional factors to consider when looking at the data.
What counts as homelessness?
The figures from the UK government report talks about rough-sleeping only, but national charities such as Crisis and Shelter recognise there are different definitions of homelessness, which takes into consideration more than living solely on the streets.
We think it’s vital to tackle this seriously devastating social issue of homelessness, but first it is insightful to understand what homeless means.
Here are the definitions for the UK:
1. Rough Sleeping
Rough sleeping can be defined by people sleeping, sitting on/in or standing next to their bedding in the open air (including on the street pavement, in tents, doorways, parks, bus shelters).
This also includes people living in places which are not suitable to inhabit in such as stairwells, sheds, cars, derelict buildings and makeshift shelters often out of cardboard boxes.
2. Living in hostels, shelters and temporary accommodation
The homeless charity Shelter explain that hostels and night shelters offer basic emergency accommodation, with most of them having strict rules.
The main difference between a night shelter and hostel is that night shelters are usually free and can offer a place to stay for a few nights, while hostels will ask for payment and you may be able to stay up to a few months.
There are also refuges for women who have become homeless because of abuse or threats. You can read more over at Shelter.
3. Hidden Homelessness
According to homeless charity Crisis, hidden homelessness refers to people who are considered homeless but this may not be as obvious as rough sleeping on the street.
Examples include squatters (living somewhere without permission), living in severely overcrowded conditions and people ‘sofa-surfing’ around friends’ or relatives’ homes. You can read more in their detailed report.
The latest shocking government statistics for rough sleeping in England is only one part of the UK. The 165% rise doesn’t take into consideration Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, so the true percentage of rough sleeping in Britain is likely to be so much more.
Homelessness across the world may also paint a different picture and we will explore the different degrees of poverty across the world in future blog posts.
Homelessness helped by Social Enterprise
The root cause of homelessness is complex and there are often many factors to consider when looking at why someone is homeless.
There are fantastic charities in place doing very important work and we know the government need to do more, but we believe in the power of the social enterprise business model to bring long-lasting change to help people affected by homelessness.
In the UK, there are already many social enterprises that are set up with the dedication to help tackle this devastating social issue. Our society needs more. More businesses creating real sustainable change that has a long-lasting positive social impact.
Communities can be rebuilt through social enterprises providing opportunities for people that face many barriers with obtaining traditional employment.
Social enterprises really care about the welfare of people they employ. After all, they are built on having good ethics. That is the heart of a social enterprise; to be fair, transparent and decent. They can provide more than paid employment, through training and skills for vulnerable people, so that they have the tools they need to hold onto their jobs in the longer term.
You can read more on about the Social Enterprise Business Model to understand what a social enterprise is.
Do you know of a social enterprise working to help tackle homelessness? Get in touch, we would love to hear from you – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Look out for future blog posts where we talk about social enterprises helping this very important issue, in both the UK and the rest of the world.
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