At the start of 2020, who would have thought that street homelessness would be almost non-existent here in the UK? One positive effect of the pandemic is that, by the end of May 2020, 90% of rough sleepers known to councils had been offered accommodation. This is great news. But it doesn’t mean this will continue to be the case, or that 90% of homeless people were actually housed. Homelessness is much more complex than simply the roof over your head. Many homeless people sofa surf so they aren’t visible on the streets and fall under the radar of local authority services.
Homelessness can affect any of us
Homelessness can affect anyone in society, including civil servants. At the Charity, we see many different forms of homelessness – people living in hostels, on the sofas of family or friends, and in their cars. It may not be immediately obvious that a colleague putting on a 'brave face' is returning from work each night to unstable living conditions.
At the Charity, we also see many people who need to move. This could be for a variety of reasons, such as a relationship breakdown, for work reasons, or because their current home is in a poor state of repair. Moving home is expensive. If renting, you’ll need to find a deposit and rent in advance; if buying, you'll need to put down a large deposit and pay conveyancing costs. There may also be storage and removal fees, as well as the cost of furnishing a property.
Giving someone a flat or a house doesn’t make it a home or guarantee they will remain in the property and sustain the tenancy. By offering furnished tenancies, the number of people able to sustain their tenancies generally increases. This is because there’s often a double whammy when moving – the cost of getting the property and then the cost of making it a home. This puts renting a home out of reach for many people, leaving them in homeless limbo or stuck in a property they can’t afford.
Struggling to meet the costs
We see many people who have a home but are struggling to pay their rent. This is not surprising given the current state of the rental market. According to Zoopla, the final quarter of 2019 saw the average cost of renting a property hit £866 per month (in the UK) and £1,665 per month (in London). Rents, particularly in the capital and the South East, have risen at a much faster rate than wages for many years, meaning that the average person is spending significantly more on housing costs.
So, what can be done to help? Firstly, getting into the habit of budgeting is good for everybody. It can help you track exactly where your money is going and will make it easier for you to pay your priority bills, such as rent and council tax. Budgeting can also help you determine whether you can save or invest and identify any money being wasted on things like unused subscriptions. If your finances are unsustainable, regular budgeting should help you spot this before it becomes a problem. Budgeting doesn’t have to be complicated – a basic spreadsheet with a running total is all you need. Our Budget Calculator is quick and easy to use and will give a snapshot of your financial situation. There are also digital tools to help you get started.
How we can help
Knowing which bills to prioritise is not always easy. We often see that people may be paying their credit cards but not their rent. Our trained advisers can go through your budget with you and look at how to resolve any issues, both in the short and long term. You may be able to apply for certain benefits, or move to a cheaper, more affordable property. If you're homeless, we can help get your finances back on track, so that, when you're able to move into a new home, you can pay your bills and sustain your tenancy.
So, you may be asking how you might move to a cheaper property or even rent a property at all? In some circumstances, you can apply to the Charity for help with rent and deposit advances, removal costs and essential, basic furnishings – although we can't guarantee financial assistance.
Get help now
If you’re struggling with your housing situation, please seek help and advice now – don’t wait. We can generally find a solution to your situation and it is much easier to do this earlier before the problem escalates. We’ve helped many people with complex and varying problems over the years, so you’re not alone – please apply for help.