Why are people homeless?

It’s a simple question.

In an age of highly advanced technology and enough room for all, why is homelessness still even something we are discussing?

Shelter reports that one in 200 people are homeless in the UK. That might not be a startling figure, but when you consider it equates to roughly 320,000 people (and those are just the reported figures) it starts to give an indication of the crisis. Furthermore, these figures don’t take into account those couch surfing, or living bed-to-bed, under some of the most vulnerable circumstances imaginable.

So how can we let this happen?

Some assume that being homeless is a choice, or due to a lack of personal success. That it’s people who are lazy, can’t be bothered to find work, and would rather seek aid from strangers or rest at homeless shelters.

Let’s clear something up – homelessness is never a choice. In fact, on average, homeless people die at just 44 years old. It’s also ten fold more likely that someone sleeping rough has been the victim of violence, with most homeless people having been deliberately kicked or having experienced other forms of violence. Homeless people are also nine times more likely to take their own lives.

This is not a lifestyle choice. These are some of the most exposed people in the country being forced into an existence that is unjust, unreasonable, and unthinkable.

The causes of homelessness are as varied as the individuals it affects. It’s easy to use catchall terms like drug or alcohol abuse, but it’s much more complex than that. In fact, predominantly these can be symptoms of the cause, rather than the cause itself.

Personal reasons for homelessness are typically based on the kind of background the individual is from. For example, three of the main reasons given for becoming homeless are:

• Loved ones unwilling to support them
• Relationship breakdown or abuse
• Loss of a tenancy

These three causes could happen to the vast majority of us. It’s not difficult to imagine how close to homelessness any one of us is at any given time, and that makes its impact all the more real.

However, the majority of reasons are endemic, including unemployment, lack of housing, or institutional issues. Ultimately there is no single reason why someone can end up without a home. And while there are still systemic issues, it’s up to us to help. To find out more about volunteering, or the work we do at Lewes Open Door, please call 07806 777106

Claire Underwood