There are huge numbers of people staying with friends or ‘sofa-surfing’. This is the often unseen side of homelessness and can have a detrimental impact on those experiencing it. For some companions, homelessness has come about through such issues as relationship breakdowns or being asked to leave by family. Other factors that contribute are the loss of a person’s home, losing their job or problems with drugs, alcohol or mental health issues. However, the single biggest cause of homelessness in England is the loss of a private rental tenancy.
The impact of homelessness
Being homeless has a very negative impact on your mental and physical health. If you are made homeless while working, it becomes very hard to sustain that job. Relationships can become strained and fade away. Did you know the average age of death of a homeless person is 47 years old and even lower for homeless women at just 43? There were an estimated 23 deaths of homeless people in Bristol in 2019, a 35% increase from the previous two years when 17 deaths were estimated. This means Bristol had the fourth highest number of estimated homeless deaths across local authorities in England and Wales in 2019.
Homelessness in Bristol
Rough sleeping is highly visible in Bristol, with people sleeping in doorways and tents in our parks and green spaces. The council’s rough sleeper count is published annually on their website. But rough sleeping is just the tip of the ice berg. In 2017 Shelter estimated that 1 in 170 people in Bristol were homeless. The lack of affordable housing in Bristol is a significant cause of homelessness, and makes it very hard to find a home once you have become homeless. The Bristol Post states that house prices are 11 x average wage in Bristol. Social housing, once 1/3 of our homes is now reduced to 1/5th and building new affordable homes doesn’t keep pace with losses through right to buy. Private rentals in Bristol are expensive, rising 43% between 2011 and 2018: and they are also highly competitive and can be insecure. The “Everybody in” campaign during the Covid pandemic showed that we can solve homelessness if there is a will to, and the investment made to do so. Emmaus Bristol wants to be part of solving homelessness in Bristol.