A survey by Christian charity The Salvation Army has shown a disturbing difference between the causes of homelessness and what most people automatically assume has happened.
The survey, carried out by Ipsos Mori, asked more than 300 residents of The Salvation Army’s Lifehouse centres to name the main cause of their homelessness.
The majority stated that their situation came about after a relationship breakdown (43%). This was followed by a combination of issues (16%), physical or mental health problems (13%), job loss (11%), addiction (10%), and finally debt (6%).
However, of more than 2,000 adults interviewed online, 27% believed the main cause of homelessness to be alcohol or drug addiction, more than twice the percentage who said debt (13%), the next believed cause.
In line with these negative beliefs, more than half of respondents (54%) say they always or almost always do nothing when they see someone sleeping rough. 33% say they give cash at least sometimes, 20% have purchased something to eat or drink, and only 8% say that they at least sometimes find out where the nearest homeless service is and pass on the details to the person.
This would go some way towards explaining why 68% of Lifehouse residents interviewed feel that, when on the street, they are not seen as a person. For 70%, there was a sense that people in general treat them differently.
Similarly, half of the people surveyed don’t think that they, or someone close to them, could ever experience homelessness, and a third (33%) say it is not at all likely that someone with a job that requires a professional qualification could ever become homeless.
This is starkly contrasted by Lifehouse residents, 72% of whom had jobs up to and during losing their homes, although 65% say that employers treated them differently when they discovered they were homeless.
The results also showed the difficulties faced by formerly homeless Lifehouse residents in overcoming these stereotypes and getting their lives back on track. More than half of people surveyed (51%) agree that employers are less likely to give jobs to people who have previously been homeless.
The charity reported that 89% of residents agreed that if there was one thing they wished they’d known before they experienced homelessness, it was that it can happen to anyone.
Thanks to The Salvation Army.