Individuals become homeless due to personal problems they are experiencing. These include:

  • Troubled childhoods
  • Involvement in crime from an early age
  • Substance misuse
  • Relationship breakdown
  • Mental and physical illness
  • Victim of violent crime
  • Bankruptcy
  • Thrown out by relatives/friends
  • Eviction from a rented property
  • Prison

According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG), friends or family no longer willing or able to accommodate is the most frequent cause of homelessness (15000+ households, or 24.5% of the assessed cases from October to December 2018). Other than unknown or other reasons, the second most common cause is the termination of private rented tenancy, mainly due to landlord evictions (12000+ households, or 20% the cases), followed by relationship breakdown [1].

For a detailed analysis of the multiple, interacting causes of homelessness, see:

https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/tackling-homelessness-and-exclusion-understanding-complex-lives

However, personal circumstances interact with broader, structural factors, which shape the level of homelessness in the UK. Examples are:

  • The increasing cost of private rented accommodations
  • Housing shortages
  • Unemployment levels
  • Poverty
  • Lack of education
  • Flaws in welfare policies (such as gaps between local housing allowance and rents, or delays of benefit payments)

Shelter’s report in June 2018 highlights a severe lack of available social homes concerning the state’s effort to tackle homelessness. The worst example was Newham, London, where, in 2017, for each social home available there were 44 households awaiting on the application list, representing a shortage of over 25,000 social homes. Almost two third of the applicants get stuck on the waiting list for over 1 year, and a staggering one-third are made to wait for over 5 years.

The charity Crisis also points out several other key issues in tackling homelessness, such as the gap between the Local Housing Allowance and rent costs, unfair sanctions, and the lack of a choice for Universal Credit payments to go directly to landlords (especially in cases where people don’t feel confident managing their own finances).

In addition, Homeless Link’s Chief Executive, Rick Henderson states that in order to reach a zero sum goal by 2027, there must be radical Government effort aiming at resolving the structural causes of homelessness, such as poverty, the supply and affordability of housing, growing gaps between benefit levels and rents, and a challenged criminal justice system.

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[1] MHCLG, 24 May 2019. Statutory Homelessness in England: October to December 2018. [Online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/statutory-homelessness-in-england-october-to-december-2018/statutory-homelessness-in-england-october-to-december-2018#initial-assessment-of-duties-owed