Up to 300 people will sleep rough on the streets of London tonight, many of them skilled, intelligent and likeable people, and many of whom want to work.
We want to challenge the perception that homeless people are any different from the rest of us. When we pass someone on the street, that person is someone no different to you or me, except they are currently in real crisis.
Homelessness begins when something bad happens and you don't have family or friends around to help. It could happen to any of us.
With support, people can and do leave homelessness behind - however, the current financial climate means fewer specialist workers and more people sleeping rough.
Please get involved, by making a donation or volunteering with a charity near you. Your support is hugely valuable! Whatever contribution you choose to make, it will help change people's lives.
More Facts about Homelessness
- There are many reasons why people end up homeless - redundancy, a relationship breakdown, poor mental health, alcohol/substance addiction, domestic abuse.
- The streets are a dangerous place to be - homeless people are 13 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the general public, and 47 times more likely to be a victim of theft.
- Homeless people have a right to being treated with the same respect as anyone else. In a recent study though, almost two thirds of rough sleepers said they had been insulted by a member of the public, and shockingly, one in ten said that they had been urinated on.
- Homelessness affects many more people than simply those sleeping rough. There are around 400,000 ‘hidden homeless’ in the UK, living out of sight in hostels, B&Bs, ‘sofa-surfing’ or squatting.
- Please consider getting involved - there are several ways you can help.
- Sleeping rough on the streets of London is frightening, demoralising and isolating. Homeless people are some of the most vulnerable and socially excluded people in our society.
- Homeless support agencies reported that around 3,500 people slept rough in London last year, which is almost half the number of rough sleepers in the whole of the UK. The life expectancy of a long-term rough sleeper is only 42 years, compared to 79 years for the average UK citizen. A homeless rough sleeper is 35 times more likely to commit suicide than the average person in the UK.
Hidden homelessness affects 400,000 people in the UK at any given time[iii]. The vast majority of homeless people exist out of sight in
- Temporary accommodation such as B&Bs
- Sofa-surfing (moving between friends’ houses)
- Living in conditions of severe overcrowding
When most people think of homelessness they think of someone sleeping on the streets. However, hidden homelessness is rife in London and affects an estimated 400,000 people at any given time in the UK[iv]. The vast majority of homeless people exist out of sight in hostels, in temporary accommodation such as B&Bs, crashing on couches, squatting, or living in conditions of severe overcrowding. All of these are as a result of having no other option. Living in such temporary and uncomfortable conditions leads to further problems. For example, how can you hold down a job if you don’t know where you will be staying from day to day, or if you cannot sleep because of overcrowding? It puts a tremendous strain on mental health and leads to further problems such as illness, relationship breakdown and social depravation.
It Could Happen to You - How Does Someone Become Homeless?
Without a strong system of support around a person, one incident can spark a chain of events that lead to homelessness. Triggers include:
- Marriage or relationship break-up
- Addiction to/dependence on alcohol, prescription or illegal drugs, or gambling
- Job loss, which leads to repossession or inability to pay rent
- Mental illness
- Physical illness
- Escaping an abusive relationship
- Getting into debt
- Death of a loved one
- Leaving institutions (such as army or prison)
Homelessness affects people from many different backgrounds for any number of reasons. The breakdown of a relationship is one of the biggest causes. Some people become homeless because of an addiction that has taken over their lives. Some people are escaping abuse and have nowhere to go. Others come from the armed forces and are finding it difficult to cope with civilian life. There are those who are unable to manage everyday life after the death of someone they loved. Physical illness can change someone’s life beyond recognition and can lead to depression and homelessness. There are countless causes and effects of homelessness that become inter-linked and, without a strong network of support, just one thing going wrong in someone’s life can set off a chain reaction that will lead to them sleeping rough on the streets.
Once a person finds him/herself homeless and on the fringes of society, it is extremely difficult to get back into an everyday routine of secure housing and employment. There are the obvious practical challenges such as finding somewhere to live, sorting out finances and rebuilding relationships, but also the experience of homelessness often leads to or exacerbates problems: illness (10 per cent of TB patients have a history of homelessness[v]), addiction, mental illness, isolation and loss of confidence resulting from low self-esteem are just some of the demoralising consequences of experiencing homelessness. Returning to a structured life and re-engaging with society can be a long and pain-staking process.
What are the Personal Effects of Homelessness?
The causes and effects of homelessness are often interchangeable – for example, depression could have caused someone to lose their home, but depression could also be the result of becoming homeless.
Homelessness can affect people in a number of ways:
- Lowered self-esteem
- Becoming institutionalised (diminished self-reliance as a result of using services over an extended period)
- Deterioration of mental and physical health (55% of homeless people have had no contact with a GP in the previous year)
- Increase in substance misuse
- Loss of ability and will to care for oneself
- Increased danger of abuse and violence (a homeless person is 13 times more likely to be a victim of violence than average)
- Increased chance of entering the criminal justice system
- Development of behavioural problems
- Barrier to employment (77% of people living in hostels say they actively want to work.)
Migrants, Refugees and Asylum-Seekers
There are many different reasons why people come to they UK. Some people come with the hope of making a better life for themselves or to make money that they can send to their families back home. Some people come here to escape countries where they have experienced violence, torture, famine, rape or lost members of their family. Many do find employment and housing. However migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are especially vulnerable to homelessness. They lack a network of friends and family able to offer support in an emergency. Language barriers, understanding British systems and limitations around entitlement make it harder for them to access support services and hostel accommodation. CHAIN statistics showthat 20% of London’s homeless are Central/Eastern Europeans and Eritreans.
Refugees and asylum seekers who have experienced torture or war are known to have high rates of mental disorder[viii]. Refugees from the war-torn East African country of Eritrea now represent 4% of those sleeping rough on the streets of London.
A Case Study - Elayne's Experience of Homelessness
I came from a very good family background; I was brought up by my mother and father with my only brother and had a very happy childhood.
My parents had extremely good morals and they instilled in me to be polite, respectful, honest and responsible.
Being mixed race - my father was Jamaican and my mother English – the challenges I faced in my early in life were difficult to deal with at times, but with the love of my parents and constant good advice made me strong and I turned out to be a very proud individual.
I started working when I was 16 after leaving school and had never been out of work until last year. I led a life with plenty of money, doing whatever I wanted to do, travelling to many different countries. Life has been sweet and I enjoyed it until I was made redundant in May.
I was renting a 2-bed garden flat, and my redundancy package ran out while I was still looking for work. So I moved out and rented a studio. The council told me to get a tenancy agreement from my landlord (for housing benefit) – he refused and told me to get out.
I was blind as I had never been in this situation before. I spent weeks being told to go here, there, and everywhere. I became very depressed. My doctor put me on anti-depressants – I was suicidal, I had nowhere to go. I slept at different places and always had the car full of my life.
Things got so low in November that I took an overdose and was hospitalised. Thank goodness I am still here as it was a stupid thing to do, but my mind was not in its right frame.
One day in December I decided this was not going to beat me and concentrated on being as positive as I could trying every angle to find work and get my mind right. I looked forward to seeing the end of the year, and concentrated on the new year as being the turning point in this hard, hard, testing journey of my life.
The new year arrived and everything has changed. I am in full-time work in an on-going temp role in the City, a place I love to work. I know a lot of people and shops around there.I am going to see my bank in the City to see if they can help me with my debt situation.
All my stuff is still in storage but I can now afford the monthly payments. I have started saving a little each week and in a few months will be able to afford a deposit on my own flat. I am still living out of suitcases and staying with other friends and family from time to time but mostly I am staying at my brother’s and sleeping on his couch.
It’s still a struggle dealing with my life but I have come through it and will be settled and happy in the near future.
I want to say a huge thank you to the homelessness services that have supported me, and to all the other kind souls I met along the way that showed me kindness and made me strong.
A Case Study - Bill's Experience of Homelessness
Adrian – Bill's Keyworker
I first met Bill sleeping in a doorway in July 2010; although happy to talk he was quite resistant about seeking help and was adamant that other people “deserved it more”. After several attempts Bill eventually accessed CSTM and has worked hard to move away from his previous lifestyle and it is genuinely heart-warming to see him not only making progress but also assisting others to make the transition away from a harmful lifestyle living on the streets.
"I went through a marriage break up and lost my accommodation and had no place to stay and found myself sleeping under Blackfriars’s Bridge.
I didn’t know what I was doing, I had no bedding but I met someone who took me under their wing and looked after me. I was sleeping rough for twenty years.
I couldn’t sort myself out because I was drinking all the time and I’d avoid appointments. I got into a rut, I got up every day and drank and at night you want to lie down and sleep. You lose all respect for yourself and you don’t care anymore refusing help.
One night I was sleeping in a doorway and Adrian from The Connection showed some interest in me. He gave me a kick up the backside. He brought a nurse down who said I shouldn’t be out here anymore and that I must stay in The Connection’s night centre. My health was suffering. I was starting to develop arthritis.
I then had an appointment with advice and housing and that day was placed in temporary accommodation. The transition was difficult. It was getting back into regimentation. I had to budget for laundry and food. But, I got a chance for a place and I had to take it, I couldn’t go back.
I got involved in Step Up volunteering at The Connection because I wanted to give something back and I like helping and listening to people. I’ve since graduated and now volunteer providing floating support. I’m also learning how to use a computer through Workspace. But what I’d really like to do in the future is Street Outreach.
If Adrian hadn’t shown interest in me that night I would still be there. "
(Photograph by Emli Bendixen)
A Case Study - Dorothee's Experience of Homelessness
Su, Dorothee's Keyworker
“When I first met Dorothee she was extremely distressed. It was very difficult to have a rational conversation
because she was so afraid. Now her concentration is much better and she’s engaging which she always wanted to do, but her fear got in the way. I admire her optimism and desire to improve her life and make contact with her children.”
I’m from France originally and have three children. I decided to come to London because I have my sister here and she had a job for me as a cleaner. But one day my sister said she wanted to rent my room, even though I had nowhere else to go and I offered to pay rent.
She kicked me out. It made me feel very sad because I had nowhere to go, no money and I couldn’t go back to France because my children are in care and I knew they wouldn’t be able to help me.
I was thinking terrible things on the street. I was worrying so much about my children. I felt like I had no future, no hope. I didn’t sleep for many days. I was awake and so scared. The Connection helped get me sectioned because I wasn’t very well and took me to a mental health hospital. They said don’t take too much on myself, this is life and just to listen to what the Psychiatrists said and I would get better.
Su, from The Connection, helped me into my hostel. When I first went in I was scared but then I started living normally again and now it’s very nice. Su has helped me be strong in my life. To not worry and she’s always there to give me advice. The Connection has helped me get benefits and find work. I’m feeling better, really strong in my mind, my body and in my head. The future is to go back to work, to have a flat and go and see my children in France.”
(Photograph by Emli Bendixen)
A Case Study - Phillip's Experience of Homelessness
I used to work in the City as an insurance broker for a very large company and I was earning a good
salary and had a great lifestyle.
I was in a long-term relationship but was working very long hours and when I got home at night I would drink to try and relax. I had no social life. It took its toll on my relationship and my girlfriend knew I had a problem with alcohol. She ended the relationship which was a shock, so I decided to go travelling and lived in different countries in Asia and South America, flitting between jobs but when things didn’t work out I’d hit the bottle. I went to Nottingham to start afresh, I had family there and wanted to start a college course, but it didn’t work out.
I came back to London but couldn’t find work and ended up sleeping rough. No one makes themselves homeless, some people can see it happening but can’t stop it. The catalyst for me was alcohol - my dad was a raging alcoholic. It was summer and I slept rough in different places. When I was on my own I was really alone. I don’t have a great relationship with my family so it was better that they didn’t know about my situation.I got involved with people drinking and we slept under Waterloo Bridge. Adrian from the Outreach team popped over and the typical reaction was to be wary and tell them to go away. But, Adrian caught my eye and separated me from the herd. I was sick and tired of the routine on the streets, my mates didn’t care but I wanted to change my situation.
I had an assessment at The Connection and started using all the services and was friendly to staff which made a big difference. I’d been successful before and knew I could do something again. I consider myself to be well educated with a lot of skills and experiences. I’m getting involved and The Connection has been a catalyst for a lot of good things.
I started using the computers in Workspace. I found the team very helpful with lots of facilities and connections with local services. I’m also involved with the art group and do lots of graphic style drawings. I’ve just completed the training to be an Outreach buddy where I will support people sleeping rough. I’m very committed to helping people. To me it’s all down to your mind set, the word engaged is important to me because you need to engage to change your circumstances.
I’m in hostel accommodation, but I’ve had a meeting with a housing association. I’m very hopeful this will come to fruition. I’m taking every day as it comes. I’m staying off the booze, but I need to have reasons not to drink. The Connection has given me a chance to change things. If I hadn’t come through the red door I wouldn’t be sitting here talking with you, I’d be in drunk in a doorway
(Photograph by Emli Bendixen)
How You Can Help
If you would like to get involved and make a difference, see our Get Involved page for ways you can help.
We have some exciting news to share!
15/11/2014Watch this space, we'll be revealing all in the next few days...
17/10/2014Our online auction of exclusive urban artwork is LIVE on eBay - BID NOW to help us tackle homelessness. Thanks to GraffitiStreet + to artists who generously donated work.
Another eBay auction coming up! Exclusive street art by leading Urban Artists
13/08/2014We're excited to announce another eBay auction is on its way - artwork generously donated by talented urban artists, in association with the brilliant crew at Graffiti Street
08/04/2014Thanks to everyone who bid in our recent auction, and to all the artists who contributed to it. You helped to raise more than £4,000 to fund support for homeless people in London!
18/03/2014We're excited to announce an eBay auction of signed T-shirts and music memorabilia donated by more than 30 major artists. The auction starts at 9pm on Thurs 20 March.
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