What is Rough Sleeping?

For the thousands of people who are sleeping on the streets or in temporary accommodation, winter is one of the hardest times of the year. Being able to provide relief during this period depends, at least in part, on understanding how many people are affected by homelessness, and who they are. Unfortunately, however, that’s not straightforward.

In the UK, a person is legally defined as homeless if they have accommodation but can’t reasonably be expected to occupy it, or if they don’t have any accommodation at all. This definition covers a broad range of circumstances, from those who can’t afford to pay rent, to those forced to leave home, for whatever reason. But the first thing to know is that there’s a big difference between the number of people who our councils and government recognises as homeless and how many people actually are. This is known as the distinction between the statutory homeless, and the non-statutory or single homeless.

The statutory homeless are those who apply to local authorities as homeless, and are accepted as such. People are only accepted if the council deems that they are eligible for housing support, or can be classified as being unintentionally homeless or in priority need. Information on statutory homelessness is readily available. All local authorities are required to report on the number of statutory homelessness applications received (and acceptances made) to the government on a quarterly basis.

Single homelessness refers to individuals without dependents, who are not entitled to accommodation from local authorities. Some of these are visible on our streets (rough sleeping) but most remain out of sight, hidden in bed and breakfasts or squats and on the floors and couches of friends and family. There is no effective or robust mechanism to monitor single homelessness, so these people are largely absent from government statistics. They’re essentially considered as being ootside of our society.

The single homeless are also more likely to have a criminal record than the general population, and have higher incidences of physical and mental ill-health, addictions and a lower life expectancy. While this information is useful when it comes to commissioning support services, it masks significant nuances in the composition of the homeless population. It also risks perpetuating a view of single homeless people as antisocial, dangerous and other.

The general public make common references to the behaviours that we stereotypically associate with single homeless people, such as begging, substance misuse and street dwelling. But these acts could be more positively explained as strategies for survival, rather than antisocial behaviour. Indeed, it’s even possible to interpret them as displays of the creativity and resourcefulness needed to negotiate challenges that the housed public oftentimes struggle to even imagine.

It should also be remembered that those rough sleeping also have personal experiences of joy, hope, sadness and pain, and whose everyday life also includes activities which form part of everyone’s daily life, such as eating, sleeping and having relationships. So although it’s crucial that the government finds ways to count rough sleepers and sofa surfers as homeless and address their needs, it’s also important that our society starts to see the single homeless in a new light. They are fully emotional beings, with relatable needs, desires and identities, who also happen to be experiencing some of the most difficult living conditions in the UK, and not always caused through their own volition. 

Unfortunately, there will always be individuals who find themselves leading this way of life, and as one person sleeping rough moves on to finding accommodation, another person will replace them on the street. So, whilst the government’s aim is to end rough sleeping, there will always be unfortunate individuals sleeping rough and that’s where The Ootsider organisation is focusing its key activities, and will continue to do so, by providing its Sleeping Coat free of charge to as many individuals as it can free of charge. 

You can help us achieve our goal by purchasing one of the garments in our range, the net profits of which will go towards the manufacture and distribution of a Sleeping Coat, so by making a purchase, someone less fortunate than yourself is also benefitting. Alternatively you can simply make a donation, where 100% of the amount you donate will go directly towards achieving our goal.

Source – https://theconversation.com/who-are-the-homeless-and-how-do-we-count-them-52061 

The Dying Homeless

The Dying Homeless Project recorded 1286 deaths across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in 2021. This was a 32% increase on the numbers reported in our 2020 study – and a staggering 80% increase over the number we published in 2019. These statistics include people sleeping rough as well as those placed in emergency accommodation and other insecure settings. Each fatality was verified by a freedom of information request, coroners’ report, charity or family member.