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Homelessness in the UK: Homelessness as a Global Problem

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 Homelessness is a global problem and its effects are far reaching including the UK. It could be viewed from two broad perspectives, the micro-level (individualistic) or macro-level (structural) factors, just to mention. This literature review examines some of recent studies conducted in trying to explain the concept of homelessness in the UK. It focused on a few recent selected authors’ findings on the subject, explaining key concepts of homelessness. It first defined the terms: homelessness, sofa-surfing, rough sleeping which are often associated with the concept. It concludes with analysis of the authors’ viewpoints discussed.

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The Oxford English dictionary defines homelessness as the state of having no home. The phrases ‘’sofa surfing’’ and ‘’rough sleeping’’ are defined as: Rough sleeping, is “where individuals stay with friends or members of their extended family on their floor or sofa as they have nowhere else to go”. Whereas, rough sleeping on the other hand refers to, ‘’Having slept in a list of non-housing locations including parks and cars because they felt they had nowhere else to stay’’ .

A selection of authors works on homelessness:

Anna Clarke’s research article 2016, designed to investigate gaps in data held on homelessness. She argued that the UK has a standard account of data on homelessness however studies from online surveys revealed gaps which exclude young homeless people. Her studies also uncovered that much of the data on homelessness population accounted only for people who seeked housing and support from Local Authority Housing Options Services (LAHOS), excluding sofa surfers and rough sleepers. The findings indicated, 35% of young people (aged 16-25) slept rough whilst 26% sofa surfed. In average, it showed estimates up to around 40,000 young people rough sleeping per night as compared with official figures recorded at 78,000-80,000 at any one time. 

Sarah Alden 2015 conducted research to establish whether the nature and effectiveness of the service provided by Local Authority Housing Options Service’s (LAHOS) frontline staff, who deal with older people affected by homelessness in England indicate balance as compared with their old age counterpart group. The LAHOS only act responsibly to provide suitable housing if all the conditions are met, otherwise, legally, they give assistance and advice. However, political interference with the LAHOS and frontline staff for the prevention of homelessness and falling statutory applications was favoured. The research uncovered that the perceptions of the LAHOS professionals on older age, could likely be influenced by factors such as government policy, personal experiences and other factors.

John P. Barile and others 2018, utilized survey data obtained from 577 adults experiencing homelessness to identify self‐reported causes of homelessness. The research adopted a person-centred statistical method to study groups of people with similar characteristics. The results showed 5 groups of people based on personal answers to the 19 likely vulnerabilities or circumstances which led them to face homelessness. The groups include: (a) physical health issues/disability (4%), (b) major life changes (3%), (c ) substance abuse or mental health issues (30%), (d) employment difficulties (55%) and (e ) financial issue (7%). ‘’Results for these analyses suggest that individuals report notable differences in their reasons for becoming homeless and therefore require unique preventative solutions’.‘’Therefore, studying the lifecourse and recognising the cumulative effect of housing disadvantage can help inform an understanding of the critical points at which intervention will prevent the emergence of housing disadvantage’’.

Studies by Suzanne Fitzpatrick and others used data questions which verify the root cause of homelessness or associated form of social barring. The study found that mental health issues and substance misuse often start in MEH (Multiple Exclusion Homelessness) pathways in line with the debate that the impact of trauma in childhood affect endurance in young adulthood as a result of long periods of impact on wellbeing, health and social performance. ‘’Homelessness, street lifestyles and adverse life events typically occur later in these pathways, strongly implying that these experiences are more likely to be consequences than originating generative causes of deep exclusion’’.

Finally, this study found that different approaches were used by the authors based on the type of research being conducted for greater understanding of concepts. whilst, Clark’s research focused on gaps in data held on homelessness, Alden considered the nature and effectiveness of the service provided by LAHOS’s frontline staff.                        

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