Facing Some Home Truths: Rethinking Homelessness

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Tackling the root cause of homelessness begins with building more affordable housing, argues Nicholas Pleace, director of the Centre for Housing Policy at the University of York. Rough sleeping is the most visible manifestation of homelessness but, like an iceberg, we see only its tip. To tackle the bulk, we can and must repackage welfare spending so we build homes to accommodate those affected. In England, there were 4,751 people sleeping rough at the last count, but there were 79,200 statutorily homeless households in temporary accommodation, including 121,980 children.
Government initiatives to reduce rough sleeping are commendable, but do little for the “invisible” majority of homeless people – those forced to “sofa surf” between friends’ homes, or live in insecure and low-standard temporary accommodation. The latter can be cramped and poor quality, and the effect is detrimental on children who have no settled, private space.Poverty and the housing market are to blame. There can be references in debates to how homelessness “can happen to anyone” but, in practice, it happens to poor people. Often they are poor across the course of their lives and, if you look at the US, France, Australia, and other places, you’ll see that this is not unique to the UK.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Specialist publicationModus
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2019


  • Homelessness

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