What is homelessness?

Homeless people are not just people that sleep on the streets

Although many of the young people that Centrepoint works with have slept rough in the past, most have been homeless in other ways. For example, they might have been:

  • In temporary hostel or bed and breakfast accommodation
  • 'Sofa surfing' (staying temporarily with lots of different people)
  • In unsuitable or unsafe accommodation

Young people sleeping on the streets are the most visible examples of youth homelessness, but Centrepoint supports all homeless young people, whatever their experience of homelessness.

Statutory homelessness

Only some homeless people are legally entitled to be housed by their local authority. The people that local authorities prioritise for assistance are referred to as 'statutory homeless'. There are other types of help that homeless people can be legally entitled to even if they are not statutory homeless, like housing advice. Many young people at Centrepoint are not statutory homeless but still receive housing support from their local council.

To be classed as statutory homeless you have to fulfil all five of the following conditions:

1. Have nowhere suitable to live - e.g. you have no legal right to the accommodation in which you live, your accommodation is overcrowded, or you are likely to lose your home within the next 28 days.

2. Be eligible for help - this is to make sure that you are able to receive help from a local council in this country and will consider things such as your immigration status and whether or not you normally live in the UK. 

3. Be in priority need - this will determine whether or not you are in one of the pre-defined groups of people who are prioritised for assistance including pregnant women, those with dependent children, care leavers and young people aged 16-17. 

4. Not be 'intentionally' homeless - you will be classed as intentionally homeless only if you deliberately did (or did not do) something which made you homeless without good reason. 

5. Have a connection with the local area - this means that the local council which provides you with help has to be one which you have some kind of connection with such as you have lived, worked or have family connections there.

The law in this area is complicated and this is just an introduction. If you think you might be homeless, visit our Get help now section.

How many young people are homeless?

The government collects statistics on people who are statutory homeless, but this does not include everyone who we would normally think of as homeless.

In research commissioned by Centrepoint, the University of York produced a more accurate estimate of the number of young people who were homeless in the UK. They did this by looking at the number of young people who were in touch with homelessness services around the country, as well as the number who slept rough and were accepted as statutory homelessness.

"78,000-80,000 young people experienced homelessness in a year in the UK "

Centrepoint / University of York study

This is only an estimate, but it gives some idea of the scale of the problem of youth homelessness. If anything, it is likely to be an underestimate of the problem as it only counts young people who have been in contact with homelessness services. There may still be many who are 'hidden homeless' - sleeping on sofas or living in squats out of sight.


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