A person is homeless if they have no permanent home or address. This is not only people sleeping rough or in sheltered accommodation, but also includes the ‘hidden homeless’ – people sleeping on friends’ sofas and in other temporary accommodation away from the public eye. Research shows that 62% of homeless people are ‘hidden’ in this way.
The common stereotype of homelessness is that it’s caused by drug or alcohol abuse. In truth, this is only a small proportion of the homeless population. The primary cause of homelessness among people coming to DENS is relationship breakdown. Other causes include mental health issues, job loss and people returning from prison or hospital with nowhere to stay. Recent changes to welfare and housing benefit have seen an increase in people being evicted or coming from otherwise stable backgrounds. The average age of homeless people is also falling as more young people are losing their accommodation – figures estimate that half of DENS service users are aged 18-35.
Homeless people face a higher risk of developing health problems, and have less opportunity to access treatment. 70% of homeless people report physical health problems, and 80% report a mental health issue. Many people who have experienced homelessness describe it as a downward spiral that feels impossible to escape from. Homelessness can prevent people from attending job interviews, claiming benefits, or accessing information and support services.
Homelessness and rough sleeping are on the rise in the UK. Rough sleeping has more than doubled in England since 2010, with some areas reporting as much as tenfold increases in the same time period. Recent government figures showed that there were 16 people sleeping rough per 100,000 households in England, and 14,670 households classed as statutorily homeless – living in some sort of temporary accommodation.
The national increase has been reflected locally; over the past winter it was estimated that over 150 people were homeless in the area each night, and the number of people helped by the DENS Day Centre increased by 60% in the last year. DENS services have had to grow to meet this need, with the old 10 bed Night Shelter being replaced with the 41 bed temporary emergency accommodation, The Elms, in 2015. Despite the increased number of spaces, The Elms is running at full capacity with 4-8 people on the waiting list most nights.
For people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness DENS can help with short term emergency accommodation at The Elms; provision for immediate needs such as food or clothing, and advice and guidance with tenancies and employment at the DENS Day Centre; emergency food relief from DENS Dacorum Foodbank; support with accessing and maintaining a private tenancy from DENS Rent Aid; and guidance on accessing training and employment with the Equipped to Change Project. DENS services provide full support every step of the way from homelessness towards independent living. See Accessing Help From DENS for more details on how to make use of our services.
While it is your choice whether or not you give cash to someone, many people are begging to support a drug or alcohol problem. Even if they have a genuine need for the money for essentials like food, receiving help from the public can prevent them from turning to DENS services where they can get help with their more complex support needs which are keeping them on the street. If a homeless person is begging in a public place in Dacorum, it's likely that they're already known to our Day Centre staff. However, if you're concerned that somebody is sleeping rough in the area you can contact Streetlink on 0300 500 0914 or through their website, and their professional outreach team will ensure that they're connected with the correct support services for their needs.
DENS relies on the support of the local community to prevent homelessness and support local people in crisis. You could contribute to the running costs of our services with a one-off donation or by signing up to Become a Friend as a regular giver. You could also take part in one of our fundraising events or sponsored challenges, see the events page for details on what’s coming up. DENS couldn’t operate without the work of over 200 volunteers – any amount of time you have to offer can make a real difference in the lives of DENS service users. See the Jobs & Volunteering page for details. If you want any more information on how you can get involved with helping DENS, contact the fundraising team on 01442 800268 or firstname.lastname@example.org