What is homelessness?
Homelessness is a complex social issue that affects millions of individuals worldwide. It refers to people lacking a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. Homelessness can take various forms, including living on the streets, in emergency shelters, in transitional housing, or temporarily staying with others without a stable home.
Rough sleeping is the most visible form of homelessness, and when most people think of a homeless person they tend to think of someone sleeping rough on the streets. Many people who sleep rough will suffer from multiple health conditions, such as mental health problems and drug misuse. They are also in greater danger of violence than the general population.
Local authorities have a duty to secure a home for some groups of people. This is often referred to as the main homelessness duty. Every year, tens of thousands of people apply to their local authority for homelessness assistance.
To be legally defined as homeless you must either lack a secure place in which you are entitled to live or not reasonably be able to stay. However, in order to receive assistance under the main homelessness duty, there are further strict criteria that you have to meet. Local authorities may initially provide temporary accommodation to households who might meet these criteria, mainly families with children.
Many people who are not entitled to help with housing, or who don’t even approach their councils for help, aren’t counted in the official statistics.
Many stay in hostels, squats or B&Bs, in overcrowded accommodation or ‘concealed’ housing, such as the floors or sofas of friends and family.
The affects on health
Being homeless has a negative impact on someone’s health and makes it difficult to access health services.
Poor mental health is both a cause and consequence of homelessness. There is a higher rate of mental health problems amongst the homeless population than the general population. The onset of mental illness can trigger, or be part of, a series of events that can lead to homelessness. Additionally, mental health issues might well be exacerbated or caused by the stresses associated with being homeless.
Homelessness and poor physical health go hand-in-hand. It is not surprising that sleeping on the streets, in hostels, in squats or in substandard or overcrowded accommodation can have a damaging effect on someone’s physical wellbeing.
Addiction to drugs and/or alcohol is both a cause and consequence of homelessness.
Problems with drugs or alcohol can be part of a person’s spiral into homelessness. Of course not everyone who has problems with alcohol or drugs becomes homeless and not every homeless person has problems with drug or alcohol abuse.
Being homeless is incredibly stressful. It is not uncommon for those traumatised by homelessness to seek solace in drug or alcohol.
Many homeless people face barriers when trying to access health services.
Although many homeless people are registered with healthcare services, many will not be using them. This could be because they have moved away from the area where they are registered with a GP. Or because they have had a bad experience of using heath care services either through treatment or how they were discharged.
A substantial number of homeless people use hospital A&E departments for treatment instead of going to see a GP.
When people are discharged following a hospital admission, many will have nowhere stable to convalesce. With no support, they return to rough sleeping or sofa surfing which won’t aid their recovery.
Find local homeless support around Doncaster
If you are homeless or think that you are going to become homeless you should contact us as soon as you can:
By Telephone: 01302 736000 Monday to Friday 08:30 – 17:00
By Email: email@example.com
If you do not have access to a phone or email please visit us:
In Person: One Stop Shop at The Civic Building in Doncaster during opening hours Monday – Friday between 8.30am – 5pm.
Emergencies: If you are homeless outside of these hours contact 01302 323444
Further information: Home Options and Homeless Advice.
National support organisations
See what national support is available for homelessness.
Everyone has the right to good health and to access healthcare. This resources hub provides accessible information for people experiencing homelessness and those supporting them, so people can make informed decisions about their health and wellbeing.
In this hub you’ll find leaflets, posters, films, podcasts, and workbooks on a whole range of physical and mental health topics.