In the United Kingdom (U.K.), eight in 10 people think homelessness is a serious issue in the country. A study by Shelter shows that at least 270,000 people are reportedly homeless in the U.K., with 123,000 being children. Engaging in the fight against homelessness is Prince William, who has recently launched Homewards, a new project that aims to eradicate homelessness in the U.K.
Types of Homelessness in the UK
- Rough Sleeping: Rough sleeping includes sleeping outside or in places that are not ideal for sleeping, such as in a car or an abandoned building. It is the most visible and dangerous form of homelessness, leading to instances of violence and challenges to mental and physical health, trauma and substance abuse.
- Temporary Accommodation: When necessary, people can stay in temporary accommodation for a period of time, ranging from one night to several years. There are many different types of accommodation, including hostels, winter shelters and women’s housing, each accommodation with its own set of rules and accommodation options.
- Statutory Homelessness: To be legally classified as homeless, a person must either lack a secure place to live or face unreasonable conditions that make it difficult to stay there. The Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977, Housing Act 1996 and the Homelessness Act 2002 have established statutory obligations on local housing authorities to provide assistance for individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
- Hidden Homelessness: Those who have no entitlements to aid with housing or who choose not to ask their council for help sometimes choose to stay in temporary accommodation, and as a result, homelessness statistics often do not account for them.
Homelessness in the UK
There are several causes of homelessness, ranging from social reasons, such as unaffordable rent and unemployment, to circumstances like leaving prison or care with no home to return to forcing people into being homeless. Women in particular can find themselves homeless after escaping physically abusive relationships.
Homelessness can have a severe effect on both physical and mental health. Not only is the average death rate for people experiencing homelessness 46% for men and 42% for women, but homeless people are also nine times more likely to take their own life than the general population. Homelessness also increases the risk of violence — more than one in three homeless people who are rough sleeping are deliberately kicked or hit. Seven in 10 people believe society should pay more attention to homelessness, and six in 10 believe there are several ways in which people can contribute to the fight against homelessness.
Prince William and The Royal Foundation of The Prince and Princess of Wales have recently launched Homewards: a locally led, five-year program aiming to end homelessness by forming local coalitions of committed people, organizations and businesses. Six flagship locations across the UK will be supported by Homewards in this endeavor: Aberdeen, Sheffield, Newport, Lambeth, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole and Northern Ireland.
The support provided includes up to £500,000 of flexible funding, a local lead to drive action and, finally, a research partner to evaluate success.
Prince William said that he “first visited a homelessness shelter when [he] was eleven, with [his] mother,” and that he has been inspired to follow in her footsteps, continuing the humanitarian work his mother started.
In 2009, Prince William also chose to spend a night sleeping in an alleyway under Blackfriars Bridge in below-freezing conditions, with his only companions being his private secretary and Seyi Obakin, the chief executive of British homeless charity Centrepoint. At the time, the Prince said he hoped that by “deepening [his] understanding of the issue,” he can “do [his] bit” to help fight homelessness.
Homewards is the first major project the Prince of Wales has launched since his father, King Charles III, ascended the throne. Prince William has described Homewards as his ‘lifelong mission.’ Hopefully, with Prince William leading this new initiative, the very serious issue of homelessness in the U.K. can draw more attention and encourage more help and financial aid in the fight against homelessness.
– Sheherazade Al Shahry