Rough sleeping is homelessness

Homelessness is more than rough sleeping. Rough sleeping is the tip of the iceberg there are many other people ‘hidden’ in temporary or unsuitable accommodation.

Rough sleeping is the most visible type of homelessness but it is just a tip of an iceberg.

Many thousands of people are sleeping in cars, sofa surfing or are staying in emergency or temporary accommodation every night. These people are experiencing homelessness but they are hidden (called the hidden homeless).

There are structural and individual factors that can cause homelessness but research has shown, repeatedly, the structural issues are more likely to cause homelessness. The structural factors include poverty, welfare policies and the shortage of affordable accommodation.

Homelessness is a lifestyle choice

People who find themselves homeless often have very few choices.

Most of the time homelessness is triggered by events that are not within a person’s control.

Women or men who flee domestic violence and abuse are not choosing to become homeless. We know people who identify as LGBT are often forced to leave their family homes due to abuse from family members.

What person would choose to experience homelessness unless it was safer than any of the alternatives?

Everyone is two pay cheques away from homelessness

Homelessness is not randomly distributed across the population.

‘We are all two pay cheques away from homelessness’ is not justified by the evidence.

The analysis from a study by Bramley and Fitzpatrick in 2017 underlines the odds of experiencing it are systematically structured around a set of identifiable individual, social and structural factors, for example poverty, especially in childhood and also demonstrating the impact of labour and housing market conditions, demographic, personal and social support characteristics. Care leavers are one group who are more likely to become homeless.

The people who use soup kitchens are rough sleeping

The majority of people are housed, have access to welfare benefits and only a minor are rough sleeping.

They are often precariously housed, with limited benefits to pay for heating the soup kitchen provides a free meal but also social connection to combat loneliness and isolation.

National and local evidence supports this. In Worcester between 35-60 people use the free, daily street kitchens.

All street kitchens in Worcester are part of the informal alliance ‘Worcester Cares’ and work together to help people solve the root causes of their problems.

Homeless people are to blame for their circumstances

Most of the time homelessness is triggered by events that are not within a person’s control.

There is an interaction of structural factors alongside individual factors i.e. structural factors create conditions within which homelessness is likely to occur and people with personal problems which leave them at risk of homelessness are more vulnerable to being affected by these adverse conditions. In this way, the high concentration of people with complex personal problems in the homeless population can be explained by their susceptibility to adverse structural forces and not solely by their personal circumstances.

Structural factors leading to homelessness include:

  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Decline of social sector housing as a proportion of all housing
  • Tighter mortgage regulation and higher costs for first time buyers
  • Unfavourable labour market conditions / rising poverty levels
  • Growing fragmentation of families
  • Reduced welfare provision


Individual factors include:

  • Relationship breakdown (including domestic abuse and violence)
  • Mental illness
  • Addiction
  • Discharge from prison
  • Leaving the care system
  • Financial problems

Homelessness people cannot be helped because they won’t help themselves.

Finding someone the right support, the right support worker and something purposeful to do, we believe everyone can be helped.

At St Paul’s we have learnt the success to helping people live through homelessness is to create a trusting relationship with a person experiencing homelessness.

Our own Theory of Change identifies the three decisive conditions we consider necessary for a person to be able to live interdependently.

We also recognise that change is not linear or fast. We use the Trans-theoretical model of change (Prochaska and DiClemente)