Frequently Asked Questions about homelessness

Why are people homeless?

Overall, the most common reason for becoming homeless is the end of a tenancy.

Another common reason is relationship breakdown between family members. Further reasons include job loss, mental or physical illness, and bereavement.

Who becomes homeless?

Anyone can become homeless. People with happy homes can lose their job, health, or a loved one, and so lose their home. If they have a support network they are less likely to end up on the street. Others are not so fortunate.

Young people who have been in care, ex-service personnel, and people who have been in prison are more likely to become street homeless; as are those fleeing domestic or sexual abuse.

People with learning or physical disabilities, mental health issues, or addictions are also more likely to become homeless.

Why is the problem increasing?

Zero-hour employment contracts, increased living costs, debts, benefit cuts and sanctions, all lead to growing poverty, which results in rent arrears and evictions.

Family support, citizen’s advice, social care, and mental health services have been cut. Consequently relationship, debt, or health issues can result in homelessness that previously could have been avoided.

We do not have enough affordable housing. Millions of people now have to rent their home privately, which is usually more expensive than repaying a mortgage. Furthermore they can be evicted for no reason with two months’ notice.

Do they choose to sleep on the street?

Local councils need only provide housing to those who are vulnerable or in priority need. This means that anyone without dependent children, or a disability, is likely to be refused help. This is why there are so many young people and single men without homes.

Some people have literally nowhere else to go. For others, being on the street is safer or easier than their other options, such as returning to an abusive or overcrowded household.

Should I give homeless people money?

No. Some beggars are addicts, and cash will support their addiction. It is kinder to give food, non-alcoholic drink, toiletries, or clothing.

Some beggars are trafficked in gangs, and are not homeless at all. It is not illegal to sleep rough, but it is illegal to beg for money. Report nuisance behaviour to local police on 101.

How can I help homeless people?

It isn’t easy, but it is possible to transform lives. We give advice on our website, or we can send you a free ‘How to Help Homeless People’ guide. Please also consider making a donation to our work. We give around £6,000 a week in small grants to homeless people to help them rebuild their lives. Demand for these grants has doubled in the past year.