In its broadest sense Homelessness is the problem faced by people who lack a place to live that is supportive, affordable, decent and secure. Whilst rough sleepers are the most visible homeless population, the vast majority of homeless people live in hostels, squats, bed and breakfasts or in temporary and insecure conditions with friends and family. (ODPM, 2002)
People who experience homelessness are often amongst the most vulnerable people in our society, suffering from a combination of poor housing, unemployment, low income, bad health, poor skills, loneliness, isolation and relationship breakdown.
Whilst there is some debate over the precise definition of homelessness there is a widespread acceptance that homelessness is about more than rooflessness. A home is not just a physical space; it provides “roots, identity, security, a sense of belonging and a place of emotional wellbeing” (Crisis, 2003).
In United Kingdom homelessness is most commonly defined and discussed in terms of Homelessness Legislation, the first of which was introduced as the Housing (homeless persons) Act 1977. (Burrow, Pleace & Quilgars, 1997)
Whilst the legal definition of homelessness is pitched in broad terms those who are actually accepted as homeless (the statutory homeless) and eligible for support by Local Authorities are a much narrower group. Those who are not clearly entitled to support are largely single people (people without dependents) they are the Hidden Homeless.