Walking down your local high street, you see someone sleeping rough. A homeless person.
Drug addicts, alcoholics, lazy and unwilling to work – just a few of the labels we mentally give to the individuals we see camped out on the streets. However, homelessness is much more complex than this, and the reasons behind why people become homeless are not always what you may expect.
From 2014 to 2015 the number of people sleeping rough increased by a staggering 30%. With an estimated 300,000 people of working age living on the streets, it is clear that homelessness is a great issue in the UK and one that needs to be tackled.
Although councils across the country are trying their best to combat the issue of homelessness there is still a negative stigma attached with the problem. Many initially assume that homeless people have become homeless as a result of their own poorly-made decisions, e.g. wasting their money on that extra bottle of vodka or other delinquent behaviour.
But this isn’t always the case. In fact, homelessness both threatens and affects many law-abiding citizens – people who are well-educated, who once had a job, a roof over their head, a prosperous future to look forward to and perhaps even a family. Homelessness can happen to anyone at any time, and in today’s post-recession economy, with housing prices on the rise and job opportunities few and far between, the likelihood of losing your home is becoming more and more common.
That person that you walked past on the street may be a well-educated individual with a degree, a former athlete or veteran, but we may never know. We often ignore them when we walk past, fearing that their predicament is contagious. Sadly, society often forgets that homeless people are people too.
Homelessness is not always a choice. In many cases, it is a last resort. Listed below are the top five reasons why people have to result to sleeping on the streets:
1) Lack of affordable housing
2) Lack of a living wage
3) Domestic violence
4) Medical bankruptcy
5) Mental illness
Another myth is that once homeless, the individual does not try to reverse their situation. In fact, plenty of homeless individuals sincerely try to get back into work, regardless of the line of work. Business Action on Homelessness is a ready-for-work scheme that aims to motivate homeless individuals and re-boost their self-esteem, so they are ready to get back into the world of work.
As well as this, each individual is put on a work placement that lasts from two to four weeks, followed by support meetings. The aim of the scheme is to get the individuals living on the streets back into a working environment and provide them with the necessary skills for future employment. Over the past five years, the scheme has been highly successful providing permanent work placements for 1,700 homeless people.
Homelessness is a highly complex issue that can affect absolutely anyone. To try and help resolve the issue, we need to break down the stereotypes surrounding these individuals.
It could happen to anyone. So, although you may think that you’re immune from it, you may want to think again.