Homelessness is a growing concern across the UK, with the charity Shelter stating that 320,000 people are currently without a fixed abode, and 4,677 of these living on the streets. People become homeless for many different reasons including family breakdown, debt and rent arrears, traumatic events and lack of suitable housing options. The rough sleepers are perhaps the most visible of homeless people, but many are also ‘sofa-surfing’ at the homes of friends or acquaintances, or staying in B&B’s, squats and hostels.
Homelessness exacerbates many other issues, such as mental and physical health, loneliness, substance misuse and unemployment. The charity Crisis states that the average life expectancy for a homeless person is 44 years. This is attributed to many factors including increased exposure to violence (homeless people are 17 times more likely to be the victim of violence that somebody with a fixed abode), lack of access to health care and unfavourable conditions for recovery from illness. Homeless people are also nine times more likely to end their own life than housed individuals.
Homeless Link collects data about the homeless and health, and their latest research states that 73% of homeless people report to having a physical health issue, 80% report having a mental health issue and 39% a drug addiction. In addition to this, 77% smoke, 35% eat less than two meals per day and 66% consume more than the recommended amount of alcohol.
Homelessness should not be a barrier to accessing opportunities and essential services, but it seems this way for many who are already facing, or in, the situation. There are avenues of support available for homeless individuals and those at risk of becoming so, such as hostels, drop ins and one-to-one mentorship. Healthwatch Essex can help signpost to any of these services, whether they are national or local. We can also provide information on accessing health, social care and wellbeing services.
We would also be keen to hear from any individuals who have been, or currently are, homeless and would like to share their experiences of health and social care with us.
Information & Signposting Lead