What is homelessness?
People who are homeless might be living on the street, known as rough sleepers or 'street homeless'. Less than 1% of people who are homeless sleep on the street.
The rest is 'hidden homelessness' where people 'sofa surf' with family and friends or sleep in hostels, squats, on public transport or other insecure and unsuitable accommodation.
So homelessness includes people living in temporary and emergency accommodation.
Homelessness is life-threatening
People who sleep rough are likely to die decades before a person who hasn't experienced street homelessness.
On average person who doesn't have a home has a life expectancy of 47, compared to 77 for the rest of the population. The life expectancy for women is even lower, at just 43 years.
People who live on the street are almost 20 times more likely to be victims of violence. They are almost ten times as likely to take their own lives.
Every year, hundreds of people become homeless in south Buckinghamshire and it can happen to anyone.
Homelessness has always been much more likely to happen to people in poverty, as they have no reserves to fall back but in a cost of living crisis, more and more people face homelessness.
The causes of homelessness are wide ranging: Loss or lack of a job, breakdown of a relationship or family, increasing housing costs and no matching increase in wages. People leaving prison or the armed forces may have nowhere to go. People escaping abusive and violent relationships may have nowhere to turn. People can get into rent arrears, a private tenancy might be ended with people being unfairly or illegally evicted from their home. People may have been living in the UK for a long time but have not been able to navigate the immigration system so cannot demonstrate their right to live here leaving them outside of the social support system. Homelessness can cause severe pressure but it can also be caused by it too. Pressures can include poor physical and mental health.
This is all happening while there is a severe shortage of affordable housing and an increasingly unforgiving welfare system.
There isn't enough help
Some people who are homeless are entitled to a place in emergency and temporary accommodation provided by the council but this is in short supply.
Local authorities have a duty to find a home for families or individuals who fit what is called ‘priority need’ criteria. People who are young, old, ill, pregnant, vulnerable or adults with dependent children usually will be helped by the council, but they’ll only be housed if they meet other criteria as well and there is a severe shortage of suitable accommodation.
The law on who is entitled to access this support and working out who is entitled to what can be complex. It is hard to navigate the system at the best of times, let alone when you are in a housing crisis.
What we do
We believe that every person who is homeless in our community has worth and should have a home no matter what their situation.
Wycombe Homeless Connection is a local Christian-led charity that serves people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in south Buckinghamshire.
We provide a range of free services to help people who are homeless as well as to help people avoid homelessness including emergency accommodation; a support centre that offers wide ranging help and advice; community outreach walks to connect people to our services; housing legal clinics where people facing a housing crisis can get specialist support to avoid illegal and unfair eviction; help to access health services and much more.
Join us as we work to bring God’s love in action to end homelessness in our community.