Homeless people are often perceived to be sleeping on the streets and battling addictions such as drug and alcoholism. However here at What’s Up TV we found that 10% of homeless people in the UK are in fact working. Up to 32,000 people in the UK are sofa surfing, living in doorways, tents, cars and vans battling to get enough sleep to keep themselves presentable enough to hold down a job. These people often keep their living situations secret from their bosses and employees out of fear of being stigmatised and losing their jobs. It may seem hard to believe that many individuals in this country are working, paying taxes and still are unable to afford a place to live. However, due to the housing crisis we are currently in this is unfortunately a harsh reality that many face.
We visited homeless the homeless charity and night shelter the 999 club in Deptford to find out more about this
issue. Dahlia Parkinson, the employability coordinator at the 999 club, informed us that many of the people they offer help to are homeless and working. Dahlia praised the resourcefulness of homeless workers she has helped who are able to keep their situation under control as they are aware of places they can stash their belongs and have a shower before heading to work in the morning. Dahlia then introduced us to Irene. Irene is a freelance fashion designer who has found herself homeless twice in recent years. Before being offered refuge by the 999 club Irene was sofa surfing and shockingly, sleeping on night buses for several months. She would take the nightbus for the longest journey possible, and then do the same coming back to her outbound destination. Irene noted the stigma that many homeless people face – ‘When we think of homeless people we often look the other way out of fear, however you don’t know these peoples situations. Anyone can be homeless.’
This is an issue that also affects young people in the UK. New Horizon youth centre offer support to 16-21 year olds who are facing homelessness. CEO Phil Kerry revealed that of the 2000 people who walk through New Horizons doors each year asking for help 30% are in work, one of them was 18 year old Nelce. Nelce was asked to leave home aged 17 and was subsequently sofa surfing and taking favours from friends whilst holding down a job that could only offer her a zero hour contract. With the help of New Horizon Youth Centre Nelce managed to secure permanent accommodation but said that her income remains ‘barely enough for anybody to live off.’
Hilary Burkitt, the Head of Research at Shelter believes there to be four main reasons why people can find themselves homeless despite having a job.
Zero hour contracts make it increasingly harder to escape homelessness and it has been reported that in 2017 the provision of zero hour contracts in the UK rose by 100,000. Although working, people on zero hour contracts never know how much they will be earning and often their wages do not keep up with increasing rent tariffs.
High rent Tariffs. It is becoming increasingly difficult to afford rented accommodation in the UK. Not only is rent rapidly increasing, but the average rental deposit is more than £1000 and most renters have to pay their first month’s rent in advance, making it unaffordable for those on low incomes. This results in many having to look for other options such as trying to obtain some housing benefit from the government.
Cuts to Housing benefit. The government has cut and frozen housing benefit meaning it is extremely difficult to be eligible and qualify for it. This has particularly affected young people as 18-20 year olds no longer have automatic entitlement to the housing benefit element of universal credit and leaving many severely impacted with little to no options.
Cuts to Social Housing. Government funding for social housing has collapsed. More than 1 million people are on waiting lists for social housing and its provision has dropped by 11% in recent years. Crisis recently reported that 70% of councils in England struggle to find housing for homeless people.
Hilary suggested that unless we see some bold action from governments then this issue will continue to get worse. The ministry of housing provided us with the following statement:
“We are investing £9bn to deliver more affordable housing, including homes for social rent, as part of our commitment to build the properties our country needs.
“Social housing is a priority for this government and we published a landmark green paper earlier this year to ensure it can be a stable base that supports people when they need it.
“We have also given local authorities the powers to borrow money to build a new generation of council houses, and this will provide up to 10,000 new properties a year.”
In reality, homelessness has increased by a further 6.6% in the last year, rent tariffs are expected to increase by 15% in the next 5 years and if the government does not stick to their plans to build more social housing more and more people will find themselves homeless. Nevertheless, there are many amazing charities on hand who open their doors and offer their continued support to Britain’s homeless population.
If you find yourself homeless please contact one of the following helplines:
Centrepoint, Tel: 0800 23 23 20, firstname.lastname@example.org
Shelter, Tel: 0808 800 4444, email@example.com
Salvation Army, Tel: 0207367 4500, firstname.lastname@example.org
Crisis, Tel: 0800 038 4838, email@example.com