Homelessness is a devastating experience. It can trigger and exacerbate problems, from substance misuse to mental health conditions, and destabilise families and support networks. And the effects can last a lifetime; children who experience homelessness are much more likely to experience homelessness as adults. This cycle must be broken.
But over the last six years, the number of people experiencing homelessness in England has risen significantly. The number of households approaching their council for homelessness assistance has grown considerably. And at the sharpest end rough sleeping has increased by over 130% since 2010 to over 4,000 on any given night. Throughout the course of a year, CSJ analysis has found that around 34,500 people might sleep rough in England. As well as the significant personal harm caused to individuals, the Government has estimated that the cost to the state is up to £1bn every year.
Both statutory and non-statutory responses to homelessness are too often predicated on crisis, with less focus on prevention interventions. For many people with complex needs they often fail to qualify for statutory assistance, but are turned away from hostel accommodation because their needs are too high. Falling between the gaps of statutory and non-statutory provision they can find themselves with nowhere else to turn. Furthermore, a lack of access to affordable housing is both a key driver of homelessness and undermines efforts to ensure that when people find themselves in this situation they are quickly able to secure stable housing and get back on their feet.