In recent years homelessness numbers has rocketed. This has been due to many reasons - the recession, decrease in government funding, benefits changes, lack of housing supply and hikes in housing rentals. This year's official count of people sleeping rough on any given night has been recorded at 74. The real number is possibly higher as this does not include those living in temporary accommodation. Within the growing homelessness population, there is a disturbing trend of people who have a job but no place to call home. These are the working homeless.
The cause of why a working person becomes homeless is nearly always because of a sudden change in finances. One of our clients, we will call her 'Molly', had a sick mother back in her home country where there isn’t a public healthcare system. Molly’s mum was reliant on her daughter to pay for her medical treatments and medicine. In doing so, Molly started to miss her rental payments in the hope that her mum’s health would improve. By the time her mum passed away, Molly’s situation had escalated to the point where she had missed too many payments and was evicted. Molly slept rough for six weeks before discovering the Wild Goose centre and the Spring of Hope women’s night shelter. We continue to support Molly and Jennifer and many like her.
Contributing to the rise of the numbers of working homeless people is that many of us are not set up to cope with a negative financial change in our finances. There are many reasons why a person could find themselves unable to afford their rental or mortgage payments. A breakdown in a relationship, a pregnancy, a death in the family, medical or housing issues are causes often cited. The most common reason is simply being unable to keep up with increased rental charges. Alarmingly there is little or no support, accommodation or services to help this type of homeless person. Services are prioritized for those with addictions or mental health issues. The only way for a working homeless person to gain their own home is to save for a deposit and this is often an uphill struggle.
You may wonder how people don’t see the signs that they are about to be evicted or have their house repossessed. In most cases, the person is already struggling to cope with difficult circumstances, with little capacity to put things into place to improve their situation. The reality is that many people are only three pay slips away from homelessness. We have put together some advice below to guard you from falling into a life on the streets:
- Make a budget of your income and expenses.
- Be aware when your finances run low – try to maintain at least three months’ worth of living expenses.
- Seek help early
- An early warning sign is when you or your household’s main earner start missing house or utility payments. When this happens seek help!
- Do not let your finances get into trouble before seeking help. It may be too late by then.
- Do not be embarrassed about sharing your situation with a trusted friend or family member.
- Seek help from the Citizens’ Advice Bureau (phone 03444 111 444 or go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk), your council’s Housing team or the charity Shelter (phone 0344 515 1430)