There are many reasons why a person becomes homeless; in Simon we deal with them all working with up to 5,000 people every year. Generally the experiences that lead to homelessness are underpinned by poverty and structural inequality. Causes tend to be divided into the following:
- Structural Causes: These can include poverty, unemployment, and lack of good quality, affordable housing. More people are now at risk of becoming homeless as a result of the financial crisis which has impacted on the most vulnerable in society and has made more and more people vulnerable. With a high unemployment rate, more and more people are now experiencing poverty and it is becoming more difficult for people to get out of poverty. Also, with no social housing being built there is a shortage of affordable housing for people on little or no income.
- Institutional Causes: People who have lived in foster care and young people leaving care are at high risk of becoming homeless. Also people leaving prison or mental health institutions with nowhere to go to on their release/discharge can end up homeless. Services need to ensure that when people are leaving institutional care that they have a place to go.
- Relationship Causes: This can include an abusive relationship or family breakdown. Either way, one or more people may need to leave the home and may have nowhere to go. Death in a family can also be a cause of homelessness as the person may not be able to afford accommodation on one income.
- Personal Causes: This can include mental illness, learning difficulties, problematic alcohol or/and drug use. . If a person has one or more of these problems, they may find it difficult to manage the home they are in or it may lead to other problems such as losing job and inability to pay mortgage/rent or relationship breakdown and have to leave the home.Generally it is a combination of these factors that result in a person becoming homeless. For example, if someone lost their job and their relationship broke down, they may have to leave the family home but not be able to afford to rent alternative accommodation.
The 'individual' risk factors associated with homelessness include:
- family disputes and breakdown
- sexual or physical abuse
- a background of residential care
- experience of prison or the armed forces
- drug or alcohol misuse; school exclusion
- and poor mental or physical health
The specific events which 'trigger' homelessness include:
- leaving the parental home following disputes
- marital or relationship breakdown
- discharge from the armed forces;
- leaving care
- leaving prison
- and a sharp deterioration in mental health or an increase in alcohol or drug misuse.