Every year on the 10th October we recognise World Homeless Day. On this day we hope to inform others of the current state of homelessness. We dream of a time when we don’t need to exist however the reality is that in the UK homelessness is on the rise.
How do people become homeless?
People become homeless for many different reasons. There are social causes for homelessness including a lack of affordable housing, unemployment and poverty.
Also, when people leave prison they often have no home to go to and become homeless on release. Similarly, when people leave care or the armed forces they may face similar circumstances.
Many homeless women have arrived at their situation as a result of domestic violence.
How many people are homeless?
Official estimates show that on any one night almost 5,000 people are sleeping rough in England. This figure is most likely an underestimate as it is based on surveys which inevitably don’t include everyone. The charity Crisis has estimated that the number is probably closer to 8,000.
These estimates indicate that the number of people sleeping rough in England has increased by 31% in the last 3 years.
Is everyone who is homeless sleeping rough?
Not everyone who is homeless is sleeping rough. Many people who become homeless do not show up in official figures. They are collectively known as “hidden homeless”.
This includes people who become homeless but find a temporary solution by staying with family members or friends, living in squats or other insecure accommodation.
Research by Crisis indicates that approximately 62% of single homeless people are hidden and so may not show up in official figures.
What are the effects of being homeless?
Homelessness can affect people in many ways. The causes and effects of homelessness are often interchangeable. For example, depression could have caused someone to lose their home, but depression could also be the result of becoming homeless.
Becoming homeless lowers self-esteem and many lose the ability and even the will to care for themselves.
There can be a real deterioration of mental and physical health. One project found that 55% of homeless people had no contact with a GP in the previous year. Former vendor Bill was able to see a GP but wasn’t be able to begin treatment until he was housed.
There is an increased danger of abuse and violence – a homeless person is 13 times more likely to be a victim of violence than average. 1 in 3 homeless women have reported an incident of sexual violence.
Streets of London found that 77% of people living in hostels reported that they actively wanted to work but found homelessness to be a major barrier to employment.
Last year there were an estimated 726 deaths of homeless people, the highest year to year increase since 2013.
The mean age at death was 45 years for males and 43 years for females in 2018. In the general population of England and Wales, the mean age at death was 76 years for men and 81 years for women.
How does The Big Issue help?
The Big Issue provides a hand up to those who want to help themselves. They do this by providing an alternative to begging, a way for people to begin to earn a living which is not inhibited by the barriers of conventional employment.
Vendors buy The Big Issue magazine for £1.25 and sell it for £2.50, meaning each seller is a micro-entrepreneur who is working, not begging. They choose their working hours, have to develop their sales skills and learn to manage their money.
Since 1991, the magazine has helped over 92,000 vendors earn £115 million. There are currently around 1500 vendors, and last year alone The Big Issue helped them to earn a total of £5.5 million.
The Big Issue Foundation addresses the fundamental issues that brought individuals to The Big Issue in the first place, or indeed issues that have arisen as a result of their lived experience. We are working with individuals who have made the first step towards working themselves out of poverty through selling the magazine.
Our front line workers – Service Brokers – are trained to accurately identify the needs of a Big Issue vendor. They provide expert information, advice and guidance best able to address these needs. They do this by accessing local services, maintaining support networks and preventing Big Issue vendors falling through the gaps.
Additionally, our national Vendor Support Fund is available on application to vendors throughout the United Kingdom. The fund aims to give a small hand up to vendors with a specific objective in mind. Vendors save and contribute a percentage towards the cost of the item required. We grant the additional cost from our donated funds to help make the idea a reality.
How Can I Make a Difference?
- Support your local Big Issue vendor and buy a copy of this week’s magazine
- Follow #WorldHomelessDay on social media and share impactful posts with your followers
- Let people know why you support The Big Issue Foundation
- Sign up to a fundraising event for The Big Issue Foundation
- Sign up to volunteer for The Big Issue Foundation
- Donate to The Big Issue Foundation
Concerned About Someone Sleeping Rough?
If you are concerned for someone’s welfare that is sleeping rough, please contact StreetLink either via the app, their website or by calling 0800 500 0914.