Key Facts about homelessness in Hackney and the City

  • Statutory and street homelessness is a growing problem, especially in London.
  • Hackney has a significantly higher rate than average of both homeless acceptances and households in temporary accommodation, and these numbers are growing. In 2015/16, 1,017 households in Hackney were accepted as homeless (an increase of nearly 50% since 2010/11). In the same year, 148 people were seen rough sleeping in Hackney.
  • Despite its small resident population, the City faces major challenges in terms of homelessness, especially rough sleeping. In 2015/16, a total of 440 people were seen rough sleeping on the City’s streets – a significant increase on the previous year.

While many groups suffer poorer health outcomes as a result of their housing situation, it is undeniable that those worst affected are those without a permanent home. A recent study reviewing health across the social gradient concluded that:

‘In comparison with the slope in health inequalities, the health experience of the homeless is more akin to a cliff, with homeless people experiencing a significantly disproportionate burden of morbidity.’ 1

Homelessness is strongly associated with poor physical and mental health and short life expectancy. For example, according to a 2011 report by the homeless charity Crisis, the average age of death of a street homeless person was just 47 years, 30 years younger than average in the general population. 2

A common cause of death among homeless people is drug and alcohol abuse; while suicides, fatal traffic accidents, infections and falls are also much more common causes of death in this population.

As well as homelessness causing or exacerbating health problems, health needs are often the reason that people become homeless in the first place (along with relationship breakdown and other factors). 3 4  The longer people remain without a stable and safe place to live, the more these problems multiply and the harder they are to overcome.

Physical, mental and substance misuse issues remain prevalent among the homeless population and at levels that are much higher than those experienced by the general population. Analysis conducted by Homeless Link found almost all long-term physical health problems are more prevalent in the homeless population than in the general public (except heart and circulation issues, possibly because of the shorter life expectancy of homeless people). 5 The proportion of homeless people with diagnosed mental health problems (45%) is nearly double that of the general population, with depression especially prevalent. The analysis also found that 77% of homeless people smoke, 35% eat fewer than two meals a day and two thirds consume more than the recommended amount of alcohol each time they drink.

Displacement, temporary accommodation and frequent moves are also linked to a wide range of negative childhood outcomes, including behavioural problems and poor mental development, as well as increased risk of poor health in adulthood.A6

Notes

  1. Displacement in this example is defined as the forced disenfranchisement of poorer residents from the spaces and places in which they have legitimate social and historical claims

References

  1. A. Story, “Slopes and cliffs in health inequalities: comparative morbidity of housed and homeless people,” The Lancet, vol. 382, no. 93, 2013.
  2. Crisis, “Homelessness: A silent killer- a research briefing on mortality among homeless people,” 2011.
  3. Homeless Link, “Causes of homelessness,” [Online]. Available: http://www.homeless.org.uk/facts/understanding-homelessness/causes-of-homelessness. [Accessed April 2016].
  4. W. Wilson, “Rough Sleeping (England),” House of Commons Library, July 2016.
  5. Homeless Link, “The unhealthy state of homelessness: health audit results,” 2014.
  6. L. Rumbold, L. Giles and M. Whitrow, “The effects of house moves during early childhood on child mental health at age 9 years,” BMC Public Health, vol. I, no. 12, p. 583, 2012.