The legal definition of homelessness for England and Wales can be found in the 1996 Housing Act.
"A person is homeless if:
- There is no accommodation that they are entitled to occupy; or
- They have accommodation but it is not reasonable for them to continue to occupy this accommodation."
Other definitions and synonyms
- The homeless /'həʊmləs/ are people who do not have a home, .
- A vagrant /'veɪgrənt/ is a homeless person who doesn't have a job.
- A tramp /'træmp/ is a homeless person, with no job nor money, who travels and beg for money .
[...] "They're not like the tramps and winos who have always been with us, filthy and smelly and dressed in rags. The new vagrants are usually quite nice clothed ..." Therapy ,David Lodge (1995)
- A roofless person (or rough sleeper in the UK) is a person who sleeps in the open air (on the street, in the doorway, a park or public shelter)
- A houseless person works but is too poor to live in a house or a flat , he/she usually sleeps in a hotel or a temporary housing.
There are more and more homeless people begging on the streets. However it is very difficult to give exact numbers of homeless people, some live on friends' floors, others in squats or insecure accomodation. Rough sleepers are also difficult to count as they move about, hide themselves and travel.
In the USA
According to the National Law Center, more than 3 million people experience homelessness, including 1.3 million children.
The US Conference of Mayors report in 2006 estimated that among the homeless population, there were
- single men 51% , single women 17%, families with children 30%, unaccompanied children 2%
- African-American 42%, white 39%, Hispanic 13%, Native American 2%, Asian 2%
- mentaly ill persons 16%, substance abuse 26%, homeless with full-or part-time jobs 13%, war veterans 9%
In the UK
The UK has one of the highest levels of homelessness in Europe.
84,900 households were in temporary accomodation on June 30, 2007.
The New Policy Institute estimated about 400,000 hidden homeless people in GB
poverty, mental illness, physical illness, drug abuse, divorce, relationship breakdown, lack of education, school exclusion, experience of prison, debts, unemployment, lack of affordable accomodation ...
Increasing rents, cuts in state (or federal) allowances, sub-prime crisis
In the USA, there are twice as many low-income families looking for a home as there are affordable houses available.
With the sub-prime* mortgage crisis and the US housing crash, the situation is even worse.
Families, whose American Dream is to own their houses, but who don't earn enough money to get a prime mortgage*, get in trouble making mortgage payments, risk foreclosing and eviction. According to Realty Trac (see map), the number of households in foreclosure increased 75% in 2007.
* A sub-prime mortgage is a high interest loan created for people with less than perfect credit.
A Prime mortgage is a loan with low interest rate for people with good credit.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reckons that the subprime problem in the US is going to "keep unfolding for much longer than expected". It will continue " at least through 2008". ( see article in Moneyweek )
BBC NEWS ,March 13 2008
In the UK , the particularly 'buy-to-let ' has similar profile to the subprime, according to James Ferguson, a stockbroker and economist. Other economists like Tim Bennett fear for a similar crash. Read his article
Time Online expressed this fear in the article entitled Sub-prime 'time bomb' is set to explode in Britain
In the USA, over 30 million people lived at or below the poverty line in 2007
In the UK, over 5 million people lived in 'absolute poverty' in 2001
This article suggests Seven solutions to Homelessness
Here, another interesting story about homelessness entitled : "Preventing homelessness in America"