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Homelessness: The Cost of Living Crisis

Our People - Athena Poyiadjis
7 March, 2023

Homelessness is a growing problem in the UK, with thousands of people sleeping rough or living in temporary accommodation. The causes of homelessness are complex and varied, but one key factor is the cost-of-living crisis that has been exacerbated by Brexit, Russia’s conflict in Ukraine, rising energy costs, raging inflation, the effects of the pandemic, and Liz Truss’s disastrous fiscal policy during her brief run. As a result, low-income households are struggling to make ends meet, and many are at risk of losing their homes.

According to a recent survey by the charity Crisis, nearly one million low-income households in the UK are worried about being forced out of their homes, and millions more are planning to sacrifice meals in order to pay their rent. This is a shocking and unacceptable situation that is having a devastating impact on vulnerable populations, including those with physical or mental health issues, immigrants, and the elderly.

Despite some progress made during the pandemic to stop homelessness from getting worse, rough sleeping is once again on the rise, and people staying in temporary accommodation has increased. This crisis demands urgent attention and action from policymakers and individuals alike. In this article, we will explore the causes and consequences of the homelessness crisis in the UK, and discuss what can be done to address this urgent problem.

Causes of Homelessness

There are many different reasons why people become homeless in the UK, and these include a range of social, economic, and personal factors. According to the charity Crisis, some of the main causes of homelessness include losing a job, relationship breakdown, and health issues such as addiction or mental illness. However, the most frequent reason is being unable to pay for housing, rent, groceries, and bills.

The cost-of-living crisis has made it increasingly difficult for low-income households to keep up with their expenses, and this can contribute to homelessness. Many people simply cannot afford to pay their rent or mortgage and are forced to rely on temporary accommodation or the support of friends and family. In addition, the severe lack of affordable homes in many areas of the UK means that households are often stuck in temporary housing or forced to move around frequently, which can exacerbate their situation.

The impact of the cost-of-living crisis is particularly severe for vulnerable populations, including those with physical or mental health issues, immigrants, and the elderly. For example, those with mental health problems may struggle to keep a job or maintain stable relationships, which can lead to homelessness. Immigrants may face language barriers, discrimination, and a lack of support systems, which can make it difficult for them to access housing and other services. The elderly may have limited income and resources, and may be more vulnerable to health problems and other challenges that can contribute to homelessness.

It is clear that the causes of homelessness are multifaceted and complex, and require a comprehensive approach that addresses both the root causes and the immediate needs of those affected. In the next section, we will discuss the scale of the crisis and the impact it is having on the UK.

Impact of Homelessness

One of the most immediate impacts of homelessness is on physical health. Homeless people are more likely to suffer from a range of health problems, including malnutrition, infections, injuries, and chronic diseases. They may also be at greater risk of violence, abuse, and exploitation. Living on the streets or in temporary accommodation can be incredibly stressful and dangerous, and can take a significant toll on mental health and well-being.

In addition to the personal toll of homelessness, there are also wider social and economic impacts. Homelessness can lead to increased crime and antisocial behaviour, and can place a strain on public services such as healthcare, policing, and social services. It can also have a negative impact on local businesses and tourism, as well as on property values and community cohesion.

The cost of homelessness is also significant, which includes emergency accommodation, healthcare, and other support services. Investing in preventative measures to address the root causes of homelessness could save the government money in the long run, as well as improving the lives of those affected. According to government figures published by Shelter, between April 2018 and March 2019 the cost to the public purse for homelessness and rough sleeping in the UK was over £1 billion.

It is clear that homelessness is not just a personal or individual issue, but a systemic one that requires a coordinated and sustained response from government, civil society, and the private sector. In the next section, we will discuss what can be done to address the homelessness crisis in the UK.

Possible Solutions to Homelessness

Addressing the homelessness crisis in the UK requires a multi-pronged approach that tackles both the root causes of homelessness and the immediate needs of those affected. Here are some potential solutions:

  • Increase affordable housing
  • Provide more support for those at risk
  • Improve access to mental health and addiction services
  • Provide emergency accommodation and support services
  • Address the root causes of poverty and inequality

Increase Affordable Housing

One of the key reasons why people become homeless is the severe lack of affordable homes in many areas of the UK. To address this, the government needs to invest in building more social and affordable housing, as well as incentivizing private developers to build more affordable homes.

Provide More Support for those at Risk

Many people become homeless due to a combination of personal and economic factors, such as relationship breakdown, job loss, or health issues. Providing targeted support for those at risk of homelessness, such as financial assistance, counselling, and job training, can help prevent homelessness before it occurs.

Improve Access to Mental Health and Addiction Services

Many homeless people suffer from mental health and addiction issues, which can make it difficult for them to access housing and other services. Providing better access to mental health and addiction services, as well as supportive housing that addresses their unique needs, can help improve outcomes for this population.

Provide Emergency Accommodation and Support Services

For those who are already homeless, providing safe and secure emergency accommodation, as well as access to support services such as healthcare, counselling, and job training, can help them get back on their feet and transition to stable housing.

Address the Root Causes of Poverty and Inequality

Homelessness is often a symptom of broader societal issues such as poverty, inequality, and social exclusion. Addressing these root causes, through policies such as raising the minimum wage, investing in education and training, and reforming the welfare system, can help prevent homelessness and improve outcomes for vulnerable populations.

It is clear that addressing the homelessness crisis in the UK will require sustained political will and investment, as well as a coordinated effort across multiple sectors. However, the potential benefits of addressing homelessness, both for individuals and society as a whole, are significant and far-reaching. By working together, we can create a future where everyone has access to safe, secure, and affordable housing.

How can Individuals Help with the Homelessness Crisis?

Individuals can help in the following ways:

  1. Volunteer with local organisations
  2. Donate to homelessness charities
  3. Advocate for change
  4. Support homeless individuals in your community
  5. Educate yourself and others

Get involved, speak up, help out, it all helps. Further detail on each of these options is expanded upon below.

1. Volunteer with Local Organisations

There will be many amazing charities and organisations local to you that provide support and services for homeless people. Giving your time, expertise or resources to these organisations makes a huge difference in the lives of those who are homeless.

2. Donate to homelessness charities

Incredible charities such as Shelter, Crisis and St Mungos all need donations to continue to function. They all do amazing work helping people who are homeless including families with children. Your donation will help them to carry on the work that they do.

3. Advocate for Change

Get involved in local initiatives with local charities. Lobby your MP on issues relating to homelessness, social housing and other related issues. Use your voice to help drive change.

4. Support Homeless Individuals in your Community

Small acts of kindness can go a long way in helping those who are homeless feel seen and valued. Helping them get a warm meal, just offering a kind work or helping them find a warm coat, can all have an impact. Do good where you can.

5. Educate Yourself and Others

By educating ourselves and others about the root causes of homelessness, we can work towards a future where everyone has access to safe, secure, and affordable housing.

Everyone can play a role in addressing homelessness and building a more just and equitable society. Businesses can donate, partner with local organisations, provide employment opportunities, offer housing solutions, and address systemic issues to make a positive impact. Individuals can donate, volunteer, raise awareness, support local businesses that are helping, and show kindness and compassion to those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. By taking action in these ways, we can all help to make a difference and ensure that everyone has access to safe, secure, and affordable housing.

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