For most people, I imagine the word "homelessness" conjurers up images of the bedraggled man or woman begging on the street, or huddling in a shop door way to hide from the rain. Images of being unkempt, assumptions of alcoholics and drug addicts. Certainly from conversations in years gone by that was the impression I got from friends and colleagues. People were homeless due to their own actions or wrong doings.
The truth is so often far from that.
What about the person inside? They must have had a family, a life, a home, a job at some point. To blame drugs or alcohol or both is, in my opinion, too easy. They will each have their own story to tell and growing up, I heard a lot of heart breaking stories of loss, illness, all sorts of reasons as to why men and women end up on the streets.
Sleeping rough is just one side of homelessness.
There is, of course, another side to homelessness.
Regular readers will know our recent history of being homeless. How many of you know that the husband and I have been homeless before? Separately before we knew each other we were both in homeless hostels for young people. We met as after several months of work with support workers whilst in separate hostels, we were moved on in to separate shared flats in the same building that were managed by the same charity and still provided a certain level of "remote" support.
Technically, we were homeless then, even with a roof over our heads. Neither of us had got into those situations on our own accord.
Fast forward eight years and we were once again homeless largely due to my own poor health but this time as a married couple, with a young child.
Some of you will know about my friend Karen from Woman Wife and Mum as well and another fellow blogger Nickie from I am Typecast shared her own story and that of a fellow tweeter at the beginning of this year.
Whilst we are now both happy and more importantly our children are happy and starting to re-settle again into our own homes, sadly our stories and experiences are not unique and are on the rise. Government figures released today have shown that the number of homeless families is now at its highest for almost ten years. Between April and June this year 8,790 families with children in England alone were accepted as homeless by their local council. That is the equivalent of one family being made homeless every 15 minutes! I don't know about you but I had no idea things had become that bad.
2,090 families have been placed in B&B accommodation after losing their homes. an 8% increase on the same period as last year. Overall homelessness figures have also risen to 13,460, a 5% increase on the same period last year. At the end of June there were 56,210 households in temporary accommodation, a 9% increase on the previous year.
My family was lucky. We got temporarily/emergency housed in a hostel, mainly for families where we formed a couple of friendships which I hope will last, primarily for Harry's sake. Karen wasn't so lucky. Other people are even more unfortunate.
Shelter recently did an online survey with YouGov which found that 63% of working families who were either paying a mortgage or rent were falling behind or struggling with monthly payments.
As Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of Shelter said: "These figures are a wake-up call. Ordinary families are falling through the net and risk losing everything. We’re worried about the thousands more just behind them who are living on a knife-edge, where all it takes is a sudden job loss or illness to tip a family into a downward spiral that can put their home at risk.”
I find these figures really quite frightening. That homelessness, whether it be families or single people, is on the increase in 2013 is something that makes me desperately sad. Something needs to change but I don't know what the answer is.
Edit: As a result of this post and previous ones sharing my story, Julie has shared her's here, please do take a read.
Disclosure: Whilst figures were given to me by Shelter, I have written this post purely to try to raise awareness and have received no compensation for doing so.