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Homelessness: the causes and risks 

Homelessness can be defined through indicators such as:  

  • Living in poor conditions 
  • Overcrowding 
  • Not being able to stay in your own home due to risk of violence or abuse 
  • Not having the right to live in accommodation anywhere in the world.  
Causes of homelessness 

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. 

From January to March 2021, the most common reason for loss of last settled home was friends or family no longer willing or able to accommodate. This accounted for 21,750 households.   

Homelessness can have a significant impact on individuals’ physical and mental health, resulting in long-term problems. 

A quarter (24%) of people making homelessness applications to local councils are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups, even though they make up just over a tenth (11%) of all households in England 

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 as homeless will have an increased risk of developing a range of health issues, especially:  

  • Respiratory problems 
  • Lack of nutrition 
  • Pain and musculoskeletal problems 
  • Foot and skin conditions 
  • Dental problems 
  • Drug and alcohol dependency.  

For women, homelessness can lead to an increased risk of premature births and contracting sexually transmitted diseases. 

The average age of death for people experiencing homelessness is 45 for men and 43 for women 

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 embarrassment of being regarded as a homeless person.  

If a person is homeless, they may move around geographically which can mean there is a lack of continuity in the healthcare and education they receive. 

Healthcare and education services are not joined up, which means a breakdown in services being offered to a homeless person.  

About us 

NCFE is an educational charity, and leader in technical and vocational learning, committed to promoting and advancing learning for all. One of the ways we achieve this is through partnering with The Helena Kennedy Foundation (HKF), which offers financial bursaries, support and mentoring to disadvantaged students in the further and adult education sectors.