“When you say homeless, I mean, what do you mean? Because I can be living in a place that’s not my home, I can have a roof over my head. It’s not my home, you know… Home is where the heart is really. You’ve got to have some say in what happens around you. You know, that’s my definition of a home” London Crisis report: ‘They Think I Don’t Exist, The Hidden Nature of Rural Homelessness’, Evans, A (1999)
There are many, many different definitions of homelessness. For example, national charity Shelter states you are considered homeless if:
- you have no home in the UK or anywhere else in the world
- you have no home where you can live together with your immediate family
- you can only stay where you are on a very temporary basis
- you don’t have permission to live where you are
- you have been locked out of home and you aren’t allowed back
- you can’t live at home because of violence or threats of violence which are likely to be carried out against you or someone else in your household
- it isn’t reasonable for you to stay in your home for any reason (for example, if your home is in very poor condition)
- you can’t afford to stay where you are you live in a vehicle or boat and you have nowhere to put it.
Quoted from www.shelter.org.uk
Doorway’s Definition of Homelessness
We use a definition of homelessness based on our experience and the research of other organisations.
Single people aged 16+ who are:
- Literally without a roof, or
- Threatened with homelessness, or
- Without accommodation which they have an exclusive right to occupy (eg living in a B&B or hostel or staying with friends – ‘sofa-surfing’), or
- With a secure tenancy, but with a disability, illness, lifestyle or lack of basic skills to manage their affairs which is likely to threaten their housing security.
The Downward Spiral of Homelessness
Many of our guests have complex needs including physical and mental health issues, substance use issues, debt and poor education.
Homelessness is likely to exacerbate existing problems and generate new ones, making it harder for homeless single people to acquire and sustain a tenancy of their own. As time goes by, many homeless people are less likely to be able to sustain a tenancy even when they reach the top of the housing waiting list.
Crisis reports that two thirds of homeless people regularly use substances including alcohol, and that they are up to eight times more likely to suffer from mental illness than the general population. Both these factors are likely to have played a major part in the first place (Factfile, 2005).
“Homelessness has many consequences…It becomes increasingly difficult to disentangle cause and effect, but it’s clear that in many cases homelessness leads to increased drinking and drug use, a deterioration in a person’s physical and psychological health, loneliness and relationship difficulties, crime, difficulties getting and sustaining employment, training or education and problems receiving benefits.” From London Crisis report: ‘They Think I Don’t exist, The Hidden Nature of Rural Homelessness’; Evans, A (1999)
Generally, homeless adults in rural areas have fewer options than those in cities, where a large number of statutory and voluntary services are available. It is much harder to ascertain the levels of homelessness in rural areas, since it tends to be much less visible.
“Staying with friends and relatives is a common homeless experience across England but appears to be most common in rural areas…Although a positive experience for some, staying with friends or relatives is typically characterised by insecurity, poor living conditions, limited privacy and restrictions on behaviour and lifestyle.” From The Countryside Agency Research Notes Issue CRN 74 December 2003
Single homelessness is largely an invisible problem with individuals ‘sofa surfing’ rather than sleeping outdoors. Our statistics show that 34% were staying with friends or family at first interview. Only 23% of those interviewed were housed at first visit.