Fight Against HomelessnessIn 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
Photo: Unsplash

Homelessness in the United KingdomHomelessness around the world is a symptom of the violation of human rights that does not discriminate between individuals in developed or developing countries. Oftentimes, homelessness can lead to the inability of accessing other basic human rights like the right to work, education and privacy. This reality is especially the case for the homeless population in the United Kingdom. Homelessness in the United Kingdom affects nearly 280,000 people, with even more at risk due to lack of documentation. In the U.K, there are three classifications for homelessness: rough sleepers, statutory homelessness and hidden homelessness.

Rough Sleepers

Rough sleepers are defined as the most visible form of homelessness because these individuals are seen sleeping on the streets. Consequently, rough sleepers are the main image the general public has of homelessness. Most individuals who are classified as rough sleepers struggle with physical or mental health complications. These individuals are at a much higher risk of being in danger or susceptible to violent attacks by hostile aggressors. In 2019, there were nearly 4,266 people estimated to be rough sleepers on a single night, and the majority of the rough sleepers in England are men over the age of 26.

Statutory Homelessness

Statutory homelessness refers to households and families that approach their local authorities for assistance when they find themselves at risk of being homeless. Local authorities have a duty to provide accommodations for those in need of housing assistance. However, not everyone is qualified for the statutory homeless criteria, and are therefore unable to gain housing assistance.

It is worth mentioning that single people are significantly less likely to be considered in priority need of housing accommodations. In 2018, nearly 57,890 households were accepted as homeless in England.

According to Homeless Link, a nonprofit organization that campaigns for policy changes and advocates for services that benefit the homeless population, there are a myriad of reasons why individuals are classified as statutory homeless. These reasons can vary from repossession of mortgaged homes, loss of rented accommodations, violent relationship breakdowns with partners or parents who are unable or unwilling to continue providing accommodations. There are four main groups that are given priority accommodations and assistance. These are households with dependent children, pregnant women, those in an emergency and those considered vulnerable.

Hidden Homelessness

The third classification of homelessness is defined as hidden homelessness. The hidden homeless are not entitled to or do not seek out housing assistance. Consequently, they are not counted in official statistics. Most of these people find shelter in hostels, squatting, or couch-surfing in the homes of friends and families. As a result of the complications and inaccuracies of reporting homelessness to officials, it can be difficult to define a standard rate of homelessness in the U.K. In other words, the true level of homelessness is higher than the recorded 280,000 people documented as homeless.

What’s Being Done

With the COVID-19 pandemic on the rise, homelessness in the United Kingdom has declined significantly as authorities take the necessary precautions to mitigate the risk of contracting the disease. This is done by isolating vulnerable populations by providing supportive accommodations for homeless people. According to government statistics, more than 90% of rough sleepers have been offered accommodation where they can remain safe and are able to protect themselves during the pandemic.

By ensuring rough sleepers are cared for, the rate of COVID-19 symptoms amongst the homeless population will continue to decline. This will protect these vulnerable people while reducing the burden on hospitals. While homelessness in the United Kingdom remains a pressing issue, the government is proactively working to help homeless people.

Serena Brahaspat
Photo: Flickr