Why is homelessness getting worse?

man with suitcase - homelessness is getting worse
Homelessness has reached a ten-year high in London.

In the last year, we’ve seen homelessness increase by 23% in London. Homelessness is quickly getting worse and becoming more common.

It’s a harsh reality to face but it’s one we can’t walk past. By understanding the problem, we can address it properly. Let’s take a look at the underlying causes of why homelessness is increasing and explore how The Connection at St. Martin’s is tackling this head-on.

What’s causing homelessness?

This is a tricky question and everyone who experiences homelessness will give a different reason(s) to explain how they began sleeping rough.

However, there are a few common themes we’ve seen in the people we work with. These include:

  • Being unable to access affordable, accessible and safe housing
  • Having a lack of sustainable income
  • Facing family conflict
  • Experiencing declining health
  • man on bench

    In most cases, a combination of personal, social and structural factors lead to a person’s homelessness. The above are just common contributors. Discover more here.

    But these factors have always contributed to homelessness in London and the UK. So why are numbers rising now?

    Firstly, while these issues have always existed, some of them have worsen in recent years.

    For example, there are currently over one million people waiting to be placed in social housing while the number of homes available is shrinking.

    This means more people are unable to access a home when they may have been able to in the past.

    Because of this, a backlog has been created as more people wait for housing to become available. While waiting, people’s situations may worsen if they are not being properly supported and so, their homelessness may become more difficult to escape.

    This can create a tough cycle to break whereby a lack of homes is causing homelessness which allows homelessness to get worse. Resultingly, less houses are made available to the growing number of people who need them.

    Another key factor is the cost of living crisis.

    This means that the prices of goods and services are rising faster than incomes. Due to this, basic costs like food and housing, are becoming more than many people can afford.

    As a homeless charity, we’re especially concerned about the rising cost of housing. This can make finding a safe, affordable and accessible home feel impossible. And as the safety net of social housing is becoming harder to access, this is likely to leave many without a home.

    We’re also seeing more people served with Section 21 notices as their landlords can no longer rent their property at the agreed price.

    This is what happened to Michael.

    After he was evicted from his flat because the landlord wanted to sell, he couldn’t afford another place. An accident at work and other health issues meant he couldn’t work anymore. In just a few weeks, his life was in ruins, and he found himself on the streets.

    Another issue that we have seen worsen over the last few years is the stigma surrounding homelessness.

    Comments from influential figures like the former Home Secretary Suella Braverman who described rough sleeping as a ‘choice‘ has led to some gaining a negative view of people sleeping rough.

    In addition, as more people are now visible on the streets, they have become an easier target to attack physically.

    This stigma and fear for a person’s physical and mental wellbeing can make it difficult to ask for support from friends, family and local services.

    As a result of this, people may find it harder to recover from homelessness as they’re facing the issue alone in one of the toughest economic environments we’ve seen in recent years.

    When these factors are put together, it becomes clear that we’re living in the perfect environment for homelessness to worsen without suitable support becoming accessible.

    How we can make a difference

    The Connection at St. Martin’s plays a crucial role in addressing these challenges.

    By offering wrap-around support we aim to not only provide immediate assistance but also to empower people as they rebuild their lives.

    To learn more about this work and how you can get involved click here.