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Homelessness: What is it?


Homelessness is isolating, lonely and devastating


What is homelessness?


Think of homelessness and images of people sleeping rough and people begging on the street with cardboard signs most likely spring to your mind.

However, those people who sleep on our streets only make up a proportion of those who find themselves without a home.

Being homeless means being without stable accommodation.

That means rough sleeping but it also means staying in temporary accommodation, sofa surfing at a friend’s or family’s house, staying at a B&B, night shelter or hostel.

To be homeless you do not have to live on the street.

Many who sofa surf, stay in hostels and B&Bs etc. are not counted in the official homelessness statistics and are often referred to as the hidden homeless – we cannot know the true number of people who live like this.



How do people become homeless?

 Diagram showing the contributing factors to homelessness

People become homeless for many reasons, but some can be more vulnerable than others. 

This diagram from Homeless Link highlights some of the many reasons why someone may become homeless. They range from reasons related to society such as lack of welfare support and affordable housing, to reasons related to an individual such as childhood trauma, and relationships breaking down between loved ones.

Every person becomes homeless because of a different set of factors.



How many people are homeless?


There is no statistic for how many people are homeless. Every year the UK government releases a report on the number of rough sleepers in England. However, this can only ever be a snapshot and estimate, as it is based on organisations in individual cities counting the number of people rough sleeping on one given night.

The latest figures for 2019 counted 4,266 people sleeping rough in England.



Homelessness in Sheffield


Tackling homelessness is a key priority for Sheffield with a myriad of contributing factors it remains a dismal reality for too many people.

In Sheffield the 2019 rough sleeper figures counted 29 people sleeping rough, which was a rise from 26 in the 2018 count. But there is no way to know the exact scale of homelessness in Sheffield.

From the work we do, we know that there are between 300 and 500 people in the city with ‘multiple complex needs’.

Sheffield defines ‘multiple complex needs’ as being “adults of working age known to three or more of the following services: homeless/housing, substance misuse, offender/criminal justice and mental health/adult social care; whose behaviour can be characterised as inappropriate engagement with frontline services, risk to self or others and who are chaotic and impulsive.”

Due to the complexity of these issues, the impact is felt across generations and the road to recovery is extremely challenging.

We are only one among a number of services across Sheffield providing crisis related support, activities to provide a more fulfilling and stimulating life and opportunities to strengthen one’s skillset.


Find out more about how we help people from sleeping bag to employment.

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