Homelessness Contents

1Introduction and background

1.There has not been a Select Committee inquiry into homelessness since 2005,1 and we launched this inquiry in December 2015 in light of evidence that homelessness, particularly rough sleeping, was increasing. The details of the situation were however unclear as some of the Government’s published data had recently been judged by the UK Statistics Authority as not robust enough to be considered accurate national statistics. We therefore wanted both to get a clearer picture of levels of homelessness and to understand the pressures that affect homeless people.

2.The problem of homelessness is multi-faceted. Much of the difficulty in quantifying it stems from the fact that the term ‘homelessness’ encompasses a wide range of experiences. Rough sleeping (people living and sleeping on the streets and in shop doorways) is the most visible form of homelessness, but there are many more people homeless than those on the streets. These ‘hidden homeless’ include people in night shelters, and also large numbers of people who have unstable arrangements such as sofa-surfing with friends and family. There have also been reports of people spending the night travelling on buses to avoid the streets.2

3.Throughout our inquiry, we have tried to look beyond the headline figures to understand the actual experiences of homeless people. Each homeless person has their own story and perspective. We received a wealth of written information from a wide range of organisations and individuals, and we supplemented this with visits and informal discussions: we visited a homeless charity and night shelter in London, a charity working with young homeless people in Birmingham and met young people who had been in care and were later homeless. Everyone we met spoke with openness and honesty and we would like to thank all contributors to this inquiry.

1 ODPM: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Committee, Third Report of the Session 2004–05, Homelessness, HC 61-l

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3 August 2016