The complexity of homelessness So what exactly is Homelessness? What are the main reasons for homelessness? Are all homeless people in addiction? Is homelessness on the rise? What can we do about it? Can homelessness ever truly be eradicated? I know from my own experience that I used to stigmatise homeless people, had wrong views on this topic and would stereotype ‘rough sleepers’ and ‘beggars’ (even though my own life was far from being in order may I add), and know that this is still the case amongst a high number of people who don’t fully understand the issues associated with homelessness. The reason for this is that it is a very complex issue with not just ‘one size fits all’ reason as to why people find themselves homeless. This month I plan to stimulate your thinking around the topic, but will go into more detail on the subject over the next few months and hope to be able to answer the above questions in more detail, although giving short, sharp answers to each question below. One thing for sure is that homelessness is a hot topic at the moment, with a lot of publicity in the media, and a number of fantastic organisations working at tackling some of the major issues/causes of homelessness, and in Glasgow a Homelessness Alliance GAEH (Glasgow Alliance to End Homelessness) has been set up with a number of Statutory organisations and third sector organisations coming together to combat this major issue. So what exactly is Homelessness? If you were anything like me, I just used to think of homelessness as ‘rough sleeping’. Although this is the most obvious form of homelessness, and is the type of homelessness that is at the forefront of a lot of the media interest of late, it is not the only form of homelessness. As well as rough sleeping, people are classed as homeless who are: in temporary accommodation such as, hostels, bed & breakfasts, night shelters and TFF’s (temporary furnished flat’s), those who are squatting, sleeping in tents or cars etc. and also those ‘sofa surfing’ between friends/family/acquaintances houses. (Eradicating core homelessness report October 2017). What are the main reasons for homelessness? In the Glasgow Homelessness Strategy 2015-2020 it gives the following as the main reasons for people finding themselves homeless in the city (and I’m pretty sure it won’t be to dissimilar in other major cities): Being asked to leave the home 23% Leaving institutions such as prison/hospital 12% Relationship breakdown (non-violent) 10% Violent Dispute in the household 8% Fleeing non-domestic violence 5% Tenancy or mortgage arrears 4% Other action taken by landlord, resulting in terminated contract 6% Are all homeless people in addiction? A lot of people still seem to think that the majority of people who are homeless are in addiction. Is this really the case? Let’s look at some of the statistics to find out: Firstly to break any misconceptions, it is worth noting that in 2014/15 for all homeless applications made to Glasgow City Council, 63.8% of all applicants presented with no support needs at all! Of the other 36.2%, these are presenting with sometimes 1, 2 or more support needs, including: drug and alcohol dependency (which is the highest), independent living skills, mental health, medical condition, physical disability and learning disabilities. Other support issues include: behavioural problems, daily living skills, employability, and development of social networks form part of the support needs (taken from Glasgow Homeless strategy 2015 – 2020). Is homelessness on the rise? Although ‘rough sleeping’ has appeared to be more visible over the past year or so, this is believed to be related to those sleeping rough, finding it much safer to sleep in shop doorways, under the public eye. In terms of homelessness being on the rise, this quote was taken from the Eradicating homelessness report October 2017 “The available statistical data and testimony from service providers indicates that, contrary to media reports and some recent political debate, rough sleeping has been stable or even declining over the past few years in Scotland's major cities.” What can we do about it? Can homelessness ever truly be eradicated? It is fantastic to see a number of organisations working together to tackle this issue, but I’m not sure if homelessness can ever be truly eradicated due to the transient nature of homelessness and rough sleeping. There will always be relationship breakdowns, people in drug and alcohol dependency, people leaving institutions and having mental health and other complex needs. People are always drawn to the hub of a city centre, and are not always informed of what help/support is available. However, this should never stop us from working towards this end, as we can surely improve current systems, improve our support, and have more people and organisations working more collaboratively to better support and reach people earlier, to reduce the impact of homelessness and make it much less likely that others will have to be in the homeless system as long as some people currently are. Next month we will look more into rough sleeping and begging.