Homelessness is rising. I mean actual rough sleeping – genuine, totally miserable, cold, damp, hopeless, abandoned, hiding in the night, freezing to death, homelessness.
Most people find it hard to believe that anyone could end up actually homeless, let alone literally roofless, but believe me it’s really easy. Here’s how:
(1) Find yourself in between jobs. Having budgeted well, and until that point, you managed to pay reasonable rent on a modest flat, discovering only when claiming housing benefit that this little place of yours is over the Local Housing Allowance ceiling set by those condems: right at the bottom of local rents. When you try and move, discover that as far as landlords and letting agents go, you are a pariah. Apply to the council as homeless but lack priority need (no children or severe disability) and have no local connection. Good luck.
(2) Relationship ends: one partner leaves, and pride, or confusion leads to sofa surfing. Hosts get bored of a lump on the settee, and politely ask you to leave, assuming you have somewhere else to go, but also judgementally deciding that the accompanying joblessness is somehow your fault, as is the homelessness.
(3) Be a claimant (and yes, most housing benefit claimants are in work.) Then have your rentier decide, abruptly to sell, but in between moving out and finding a new place, discover that nobody will house you without a guarantor. Only you don’t have a guarantor. And you’ve been a good tenant, so abide by the notice to quit. Except you have nowhere else to go. And no local connection, and are not considered to be in priority need (that is: vulnerable for reasons of health or age, or childless.)
(4) Lose your home due to a landlord going bankrupt. In any of these stated situations.
(5) Move away for employment/education, but find no work, or lose the job, and be staying in temporary accommodation: a hostel or cheap bed and breakfast, but run out of money.
(6) Be bullied out of a shared home. Then find you can’t get a reference from your previous resident landlord.
(7) Be the bottom of the list when desperate in a high demand area. Place your sealed bid, but discover that people have outbid you for the hovel you could just cover on minimum wage.
(8) Be thrown out by your parents, but not knowing how to access housing, support or the funds to find a safe new place.
(9) Be freelance. Even high earning freelancers are deemed undesirable by letting-agents.
(10) Be disabled, or mentally ill. Few private sector rentiers will touch you with a very long disinfected barge pole, no matter how much support you have, or how ‘well’ you now are.
See – it’s not hard. In fact, it’s all too easy. Homelessness doesn’t happen to other people, to strangers with ‘chaotic lives’ or the feckless and useless. The UK private renting sector is broken. And nobody has the will to fix it.
Still don’t believe me? All of those scenarios were sent by readers, and one (or more) also genuinely happened to me.