The Homelessness Pandemic in the United Kingdom

If you have ever been to a city centre, you’ll have seen the reality of rough sleeping. The homelessness crisis was spotlighted during the early weeks of the pandemic when the most vulnerable in society were left virtually defenceless against the virus. Homelessness is widespread across the UK, with hidden homelessness often going unnoticed. Sofa surfing is also on the rise and expected to peak again as a result of the pandemic. We are taking an in-depth look at the homelessness pandemic in the UK and what you can do to help.


Homelessness in England

The charity Crisis estimates that 200,000 people were experiencing ‘core’ homelessness in 2020. This category is for the most serve and immediate types of homeless. Just like domestic abuse, it’s difficult to pinpoint exact figures for homelessness, as cases are often not reported, and it’s considered a ‘hidden’ problem.


There is no denying that the pandemic is going to accelerate homelessness. Although it appeared that numbers were beginning to drop, they have soared within just one year. At the end of 2020, over 95,000 homeless householders were living in temporary accommodation in England. That’s a rise of over 7,000 households in one year.


The pandemic has seen rough sleepers brought into emergency temporary accommodation to protect them from the unthinkable. The latest statistics show that over 11,000 people were in this type of temporary accommodation in January 2021, jumping from just over 9.6k in December 2020.


Yes, homelessness impacts only a small portion of the population. As one of the biggest economies in the world, homelessness should be a thing of the past.


Homelessness and the elderly

A lot of elderly people can find themselves homeless with no one to look after them. With benefit cuts there has been an increase in the number of elderly people becoming homeless as they are struggling to afford basic essentials.  Official data has shown that there has been a 39% increase in people over 60 approaching the authorities because they are in need of housing by local councils over the last five years, with the figure increasing from 1,800 in 2012-13 to 2,500 in 2017-18 in the UK.


Homelessness and young people

Many young people suffer from homelessness too, often with no support system at home. Centrepoint’s new report showed that an estimated 121,000 young people (16–24-year-olds) in the UK asked the council for help with homelessness in 2019-20, based on figures provided by local authorities and devolved administrations. Many young individuals do not even go to the council for help so the true number of young people that are homeless are often hidden.  

Homelessness and Woman

Research from St Mungo’s revealed that rough sleeping statistics are ‘almost certainly being undercounted’ and that women are more likely to be missed out in official figures. The report reveals:

  • Women sleeping rough tend to be younger and are significantly more likely than men to be aged 25 or under.
  • Women sleeping rough are more likely than men to need support for mental health problems.
  • Women are more likely to sleep rough for short periods than men.

Women’s homelessness can be contributed to many factors, sexual abuse, trauma, financial loss (gender pay gap) and domestic violence. From St Mungo’s research it was found that women that suffered from domestic violence, made up a third , 33% of St Mungo’s residents that slept rough.

Not having financial independence or financial freedom puts women at greater risks of being homeless.  One of the main causes of homelessness is when individuals especially young women are evicted from a private rented home. The gender pay gap means women earn 6.5 % less than men on average, according to official statistics. This may not seem like much, but it put women especially young women at risk of behind payments on rent. These financial pressures have gotten worse due to covid 19 with women more likely to have been furloughed with 2.32 million women receiving government support as of January 31 compared to 2.18 million men.

Also due to Covid-19 there has been an increase in domestic violence cases, meaning more women especially young women at risk of being homeless. During the first national lockdown, 259,324 domestic abuse-related offences were recorded by police in England and Wales, according to Office for National Statistics figures.

Homelessness and Men

In a survey carried out by Crisis in the UK the reasons for homelessness by men were relationship breakdown, substance misuse, and leaving an institution (e.g., prison, care, hospital etc.). Social housing in the UK is limited and priority is given to vulnerable groups and families with children. Men are often considered the least vulnerable of all groups, but they are vulnerable.


Homelessness and the LGBT+ Community

Many individuals who identify as LGBT+ can find themselves homeless. Causes of homelessness include constant bullying and familial rejection often leaving them with nowhere to go and no support system. Research from the LGBT+ Youth charity found that nearly a quarter, 24% of homeless people aged between 16-25 years identified as LGBT plus, with more than three quarters, 77% claiming that abuse and familial rejection was the main factor in them becoming homeless.


Tackling homelessness in the UK

How can we tackle homelessness in the UK? It’s a million-pound question. Every country is impacted by homelessness, and no one has fully remedied it. Finland has come close to achieving low levels of homelessness, with official statistics at 4,600 people in 2019. 

The difference in Finland is their Housing First policy which has taken over 30 years to develop. It gives rough sleepers a home and an intensive support system to help them deal with issues that often keep them on the streets, such as mental health problems and addiction. 

Doctor A Cosmetics is a next-generation skincare brand on a mission to change the world. As an eco-friendly, clean skincare brand, our social conscious drives everything we do, from encouraging diversity within the beauty industry to supporting social campaigns through our charity partners.  

Tackling food poverty is one of the social issues at the heart of our ‘Give Back Beauty’ campaign. We are supporting the work of the Anika Food Charity, established by our founder, a baby and food bank. Anika Food Charity also campaigns on widespread social causes related to homelessness, such as domestic violence, mental health, and period poverty. 

If you find yourself without a home or somewhere safe to stay, there is help out there. The ‘Everyone In’ scheme was launched to bring rough sleepers off the streets and into emergency accommodation during the pandemic. If you need help, contact 0808 800 4444 for free to access Shelter’s free housing advice service.

Helplines to contact:


116 123 (freephone)
Chris, Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK
PO Box 90 90
Stirling FK8 2SA

Samaritans are open 24/7 for anyone who needs to talk. You can visit some Samaritans branches in person. Samaritans also have a Welsh Language Line on 0808 164 0123 (7pm–11pm every day).

Shelter Cymru

0345 075 5005
Provides free, confidential advice on housing and homelessness in Wales.

Shelter England

0808 800 4444
Provides free, confidential advice on housing and homelessness in England.


Homelessness and rough sleeping

Provides a wide range of services for homeless people, including Chrisis at Christmas centres.

Homeless Link
Membership charity for organisations working with homeless people. Includes a directory of services for homeless people in England.

No Second Night Out
Help and support for people sleeping rough in some parts of England.

The Pavement
Advice and information for homeless people including a directory of local services.


0300 500 0914
Connects people who are sleeping rough with local services.


LGBT+ housing advice

Stonewall Housing

020 7359 5767
Specialist housing advice for anyone identifying as LGBT+ in England.




0808 800 0661
Provides advice, housing and support for young people aged 16–25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in England.

The Mix

0808 808 4994
85258 (crisis messenger service, text THEMIX)
Support and advice for under 25s, including a helpline, crisis messenger service and webchat.

Rees Foundation
Support for care leavers, including regional peer networks.



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