Definitions of Homelessness in the UK

Written by rena sherwood
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Definitions of Homelessness in the UK
(Image by Piotr Cjuchta)

The definition of a homeless person is broader in the UK than in most countries (especially the United States). Most countries only consider rough sleepers to be homeless. "Rough sleepers" is the term for people who sleep outside, in tents or even in cars. But the UK also includes people who do not have a home, yet they are allowed to sleep on a friend or family member's floor for the night.


Homeless people who spend the night at different homes every night--yet have no place to go in the day--are in the same position as squatters or rough sleepers. They need the same benefits, have the same troubles and need the same services as rough sleepers. By allowing them into the UK definition of homelessness, they are able to get the help they need.


This broad definition of homelessness is not a sign that the UK will let just anyone on the dole or to get council services. This is meant to take every individual's life situation into account before deciding if they are eligible for services or to go on the dole. The dole is not large enough to make it a tempting alternative to one's own job.


There are many types of situations a UK resident can find himself in and be considered legally homeless, even if there is a roof over his head for that night. These include planning to run away from domestic violence and having no place to go. He also fits into this if he is squatting in a condemned building or sleeping in a place where you have trespassed. Sleeping in a boat, van or car that is needed to keep moving about from parking place to parking place is a homeless situation. Someone who is only going to be at a friend's room for a couple of days is also considered homeless.


According to this definition, there are well over one million homeless people in the UK. That's considered, by many, to be a conservative estimate. According to The Statutory Homeless Report of March 2008, this number includes two-fifths of homeless with children and three-fifths without children. It is unknown how many homeless have pets with them.

Expert Insight

Many homeless charities and studies in the UK focus on only one category of the homeless, such as teenage runaways or single men. These studies don't give an overall picture of just how large a problem homelessness is. Without knowing who the homeless are or why they became homeless or what health or counselling needs they have, it's hard to focus on ways to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place or how to focus public and private resources to help eliminate homelessness in the UK. It's best to look at the data available to see what we know can be effecting in helping all those involved.

Establishing a program that can give others a hand up--while giving training, necessities and motivation to those struggling--is imperative to combating and eliminating the problem of homelessness. Preventive measures to help those struggling would also be a great thing to establish in the UK.

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