Homelessness in England

Homelessness in England

In 2007/2008, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for Homelessness Statistics produced a table which showed some of the more immediate reasons for homelessness in England. [Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for Homelessness Statistics, [http://www.york.ac.uk/res/ukhr/ukhr0708/updates/pdf/08-092.pdf "Reasons for Homelessness in England"] , 2005/2006.] These were not underlying reasons but before the onset of homelessness. These reasons were given by the minister's report for 2007/2008 as: [ [http://www.york.ac.uk/res/ukhr/ukhr0708/compendium.htm "Housing needs, homelessness and lettings"] , "UK Housing Review 2007/2008", University of York, England.]

* 36% - Parents, relative or friends no longer willing or able to accomodate
* 19% - Breakdown of relationship with partner
* 20% - Loss of private dwelling, including tied accomodation
* 18% - Other
* 4% - Mortgage arrears
* 2% - Rent arrears

Government treatment of the homeless

All local authorities in England have a legal duty to provide 24-hour advice to homeless people, or those who are at risk of becoming homeless within 28 days.A local authority must accept an application for assistance from a person seeking homelessness assistance if they have reason to believe that the person may be homeless or threatened with homelessness. They are then duty bound to make inquiries into that person's circumstances in order to decide whether a legal duty to provide accommodation and assistance is owed. This duty to accept an application arises irrespective of whether the applicant became intentionally homeless or has a local connection with the district of the authority.

If the local authority has reason to believe that an applicant is homeless, eligible for assistance and falls into a priority need category then it is under a legal duty to provide 'interim accommodation' for the applicant and those residing with him, pending a decision as to what, if any, duty is owed.

Certain categories of persons from abroad (including British citizens who have lived abroad for some time) may be ineligible for assistance under the legislation.

A person does not have to be roofless for qualify legally as being homeless. For example it may not be legally reasonable for a person to occupy by virtue of its condition, location, if it is not available to all members of the household, or because an occupant is at risk of violence or threats of violence which are likely to be carried out.

The extent of the duty owed by a local authority towards a homeless applicant shall depend on his or her circumstances, and in particular whether they are homeless (or threatened with homelessness), eligible for assistance, in priority need, and intentionally homeless.

If the applicant qualifies under the four criteria then the local authority has a legal duty to provide accommodation for the applicant, those living with them, and any other person who it is reasonable to reside with them. However, if the applicant does not have a local connection with the district of the authority then they may be referred to another local authority with which they have a local connection (unless it is likely that the applicant would suffer violence or theats of violence in that other area).

If the local authority decides that a person is homeless but does not fall into a priority need category, or became homeless intentionally then a lesser duty shall be owed which does not extend to the provision of permanent accommodation. The local authority shall still however be lawfully obliged to offer advice and assistance.

People will have a "priority need" for being provided with permanent housing if any of the following apply: pregnant, have dependent children, homeless because of an emergency such as a flood or a fire, aged 16 or 17, elderly, are vulnerable due to a physical or mental illness or disability, are at risk of exploitation or have been in care, are at risk of domestic violence or other threats of violence, homeless after leaving hospital, prison or the armed forces.

The accommodation may not necessarily be provided by the council and even where the 'full' duty is owed the housing provided may at first be temporary accommodation: often bed and breakfast hotels are used for temporary accommodation, and Housing Associations for permanent accommodation.

Practical advice regarding homelessness can be obtained through the websites listed below. The Citizens Advice Bureau and some other charities also offer advice in person, by telephone, or by email.The Shelter provides advice about homelessness and other housing problems from the telephone number given on their website. In an emergency, a person contacts a local council. Thames Reach runs the London Street Resue Service which provides support to people sleeping on the streets of the capital.


The official figures [ [http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/housing/pdf/hspolicybrief20 "Homelessness Statistics September 2007 and Rough Sleeping – 10 Years on from the Target"] September 2007Department for Communities and Local Government: London] from the Department for Communities and Local Government for England (not including the rest of the UK) are that on average 498 people sleep rough each night, with 248 of those in London. There are a total of 84,900 households (which may contain more than one person) that are classified as homeless. Some homelessness workers have claimed that these figures are manipulated to give a lower number of people sleeping rough [Branigan, Tania, [http://society.guardian.co.uk/homelessness/story/0,,606140,00.html "Rough sleepers unit 'is fixing figures'"] , Saturday November 24, 2001, Guardian (UK)] .


In April 2006 the Housing Minister Yvette Cooper MP wrote to local authorities in response to criticism that a gatekeeping approach (whereby local authorities do not take homelessness applications) [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/uk/4089202.stm "Warning over homelessness figures: Government claims that homelessness numbers have fallen by a fifth since last year should be taken with a health warning, says housing charity Shelter"] , BBC News, Monday, 13 June, 2005.] to homelessness applications was taking place. [ [http://www.homeless.org.uk/newsanddiary/060412%20Letter%20re%20prevention%20YC.doc "Effective Homelessness Prevention"] , by Yvette Cooper, MP, letter archived at Homeless Link UK.] The letter reminded local authorities of their statutory duty in this regard.

Operation Poncho

Operation Poncho is a program run by the Corporation of London, the homeless charity Broadway and London Police. It is an aggressive attempt to remove persons sleeping in public space. Homeless people are woken by Police late at night and the place they were sleeping and Corporation of London workers pour buckets of water over their piece of pavement, to prevent them bedding down again. [ [http://forums.homeless.org.au/showthread.php?t=2449 "Operation Poncho - Broadway / Corporation of London"] ] Welfare assistance is recommended through the homeless charity Broadway.

Opposition to Operation Poncho has included media coverage [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/7419178.stm " Homeless 'harassed' by cleaners"] ] and one church group's sleeping out in solidarity with the street homeless. [ [http://www.bloomsbury.org.uk/news/Sleepover.htm "Bloomsbury Sleepover"] ] Concern has also been raised at London Police describing rough sleeping as an 'anti-social behavior,' alongside skateboarding. [ [http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/CityPolice/SaferCityWards/SaferCityPartnership/antisocialbehaviour.htm "City of London Police - Safer City Partnership anti-social behaviour"] ]

ee also

*Impotent poor
*Poor laws
*Vagrancy (people)
*Public housing
*Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
*Psychological trauma


Further reading

*Angell, Ian, [http://personal.lse.ac.uk/angell/books/ian_lamposts.htm "No More Leaning on Lamp-posts"] , London School of Economics.
*BBC News, [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/uk/4089202.stm "Warning over homelessness figures: Government claims that homelessness numbers have fallen by a fifth since last year should be taken with a health warning, says housing charity Shelter"] , Monday, 13 June, 2005.
*BBC Radio 4, [http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/youandyours/nohome.shtml "No Home, a season of television and radio programmes that introduce the new homeless."] , 2006.
* [http://www.york.ac.uk/res/ukhr/ "UK Housing Review"] , University of York, England

External links

* [http://forums.homeless.org.au/forumdisplay.php?f=22 Homeless Forum - England] - an online forum for homeless people in England as well as service providers and community stakeholders.
* [http://www.thamesreach.org.uk Thames Reach] - a UK charity providing services to homeless men and women across London
* [http://www.shelter.org.uk Shelter] - a UK charity that provides a freephone helpline for homelessness and other housing problems
* [http://www.emmaus.org.uk Emmaus] - charity with live-in communities, offering work and accommodation to give homeless people a new start
* [http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/index/family_parent/housing/finding_accommodation.htm#Local_authority_help_for_homeless_people Citizens Advice Bureau]
* [http://www.crisis.org.uk Crisis]
* [http://homelessuk.org Directory of UK services]
* [http://www.homeless.org.uk/ Homeless Link]
* [http://www.odpm.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1149659 Government links and statistics]

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