Homelessness: the causes and risks | NCFE

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Homelessness: the causes and risks 

A recent report by the charity Shelter has warned of a surge in homelessness, with data outlining that the cost of living crisis is making housing problems worse for 7 in 10 callers to the organisation's emergency helpline.

Homelessness, as outlined by the charity, is defined as "not having a home". Whilst this includes those with nowhere to stay who are living on the street, it also includes many individuals who have a roof over their head.

You count as homeless if you are:

  • Staying with friends or family
  • Staying in a hostel, night shelter or B&B
  • Squatting (because you have no legal right to stay)
  • At risk of domestic abuse
  • Experiencing violence in your home
  • Living in poor conditions which affect your health
  • Separated from your family because you do not have a place to live together.

Causes of homelessness 

According to recent data by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, "between January to March 2022, 74,230 households were initially assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness and owed a statutory homelessness duty." This figure is up 5.4% from January to March 2021.

The increased lack of affordable housing and difficulty of getting onto the housing ladder in recent years, as well as poverty, life events such as relationship breakdowns, unemployment, physical and mental health problems or leaving prison, has forced many people into homelessness. 

Many women experiencing homelessness have had to escape violent or abusive relationships and may end up living in a hostel or “sofa surfing” – moving between friends and family. Homelessness can have a significant impact on individuals’ physical and mental health, resulting in long-term problems. 

Social care professionals may meet people suffering with the impact of homelessness in many departments, such as:  

  • Social work 
  • Accident and emergency 
  • Outreach services in the community 
  • Midwifery 
  • Mental health services 
  • Many other health and care services. 

Risks of homelessness 

People living in unsuitable housing or deemed homeless will have an increased risk of developing a range of health issues compared to the general public. According to Public Health Scotland, these include:  

  • Mental ill health
  • Alcohol abuse and drug use
  • A higher risk of death
  • Higher rates of health and development problems (in homeless children).

Being homeless increases the difficulties people face in accessing health and education services due to their locations, not having official documents for registering for the services, and sometimes, the embarrassment of being regarded as homeless.  

If a person is homeless, they may move around geographically which can also mean there is a lack of continuity in the healthcare and education they receive. Healthcare and education services are not usually joined up, which may mean a breakdown in services being offered to a homeless person.  

Helpful resources

Whether you're looking for support and advice regarding homelessness or educational resources to support teaching around the topic, you may find the following resources may be helpful:

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