Homeless population steadily increasing
Homelessness is an important social issue, prevalent across the globe. In some European countries prohibitive housing costs, overcrowding and severe housing deprivation result in a percentage of population being unable to afford housing. Combining that with high unemployment levels and lack of opportunities in some parts of countries, homelessness is bound to rise and make the vulnerable even more vulnerable.
Third Overview of Housing Exclusion in Europe 2018 by Feantsa (European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless) and Abbé Pierre Foundation (French housing charity) reveals that the homeless population is steadily increasing in almost all EU countries, except in Finland and Norway. The report paints a shocking reality in relation to the housing availability and cost. It claims that a significant proportion of young people specifically in Europe are either being excluded from the housing market or live in unfit conditions. Furthermore, it found that among EU citizens aged 18 – 24 living below the poverty line, 43% were overburdened by housing in Europe in 2016, a figure that is 4 times the population as a whole.
According to the Irish Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (November 2017), there were 8,857 people in emergency accomodation managed by the state, which included 1,530 families; 5,524 adults and 3,333 children. This number marks a 145% increase in the number of homeless people since November 2014. Additionally, according to Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Goverment in England, there were 78,930 households in temporary accommodation on 31 December 2017, a figure that is 4% higher from the same time last year and 64% higher than on 31 December 2010. These figures are likely to rise according to new studies, predicting an even grimmer future.
Furthermore, the report ‘Women’s Homelessness in Europe’, conducted by Dr. Paula Mayock of Trinity College Dublin and Joanne Bretherton of University of York, found that women comprise 42% of the total adult homeless population in Ireland. The study also claims that current homeless figures are inaccurate because they do not include women and children in domestic violence refuges. The report states that the actual overall number of homeless people are likely to be worse as women are less likely to register as homeless due to fear of being stigmatised. In addition to this report, Dr. Paula Mayock also founded WHEN (Women’s Homelessness in Europe Network), which is a collaboration and network for researchers, policy makers and service professionals who have an interest in women’s homelessness.
A right to housing is a fundamental right for each person and the existence of homelessness is largely due to the fault of the state, especially if it criminalises people sleeping rough, deports people who have been denied asylum and if the creative attempts of councils to ban the homeless people from public places are legally supported. Such harsh and undignified treatment of the homeless people is an inhumane response to a serious social issue. Instead, the governments need to seek to provide affordable housing to its citizens. Investments should be made into the building of new social housing; abandoned and unused properties should be seized and turned into affordable housing options, even nationalising accommodation to provide the homeless with the place to live. Furthermore, there needs to be a cap on rent cost in major cities like Dublin and London to avoid the prices skyrocketing and to reduce the current ridiculous costs of accommodation.
This is an urgent and pressing issue because “the number of homeless people dying has more than doubled over the last five years, with deaths occurring in supermarkets car parks, church graveyards and crowded hostels” as per the article in the Independent. There is a possibility that these statistics do not reveal the full scope of the deaths of homeless figures and the real figures may be much higher. What is clear though, that homeless people are much more likely to be exposed to violence, fatal illnesses, abuse, infections and are more likely to commit suicide. Therefore, it is imperative that decisions to tackle homelessness are taken swiftly and decisively to help those that are forgotten.
It also isn’t a secret that the correlation between alcohol / drug addictions and homelessness exists, but homeless people are the victims of not only the personal circumstances but also social circumstances, be it lack of employment opportunities, unaffordable rent prices etc. In addition, one of the most comical aspects to the debate about homelessness is the plan to issue £100 fines for begging in the Dorset town, as the BBC reported. Homeless people are amongst the most vulnerable in the society and such drastic measures are further victimising their lives.
Homeless people are often ridiculed and stigmatised, even judged and ignored on the streets as they carry on living in inhumane conditions. The governments need to solve the social issues that result in such consequences and help its citizens to live the fulfilled lives not through punitive measures but through care and support.
Aldas Krūminis holds a BSc Criminology and Social Policy degree and is currently studying for an M.A. in Creative Writing at Loughborough University, where he has been an active volunteer with student support services. He writes everything from fiction to non-fiction and has dedicated his future to the art of writing.