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Homeless Research - Articles and Books


The homeless are the most visible of Manchester's social problems. Homeless people are found everywhere in the city and are appearing on every national news outlet. We encounter them as they beg for money outside supermarkets and bank machines and cannot escape their efforts to seek refuge in doorways, alleys, libraries and public spaces. They are everywhere and their numbers are increasing. 

The most commonly used explanation off homelessness focuses on the faults of the individuals and is based on the ideology that opportunities for advancing in life are readily available for those who are willing to try, meaning, individuals are responsible for their successes or failures. In other words homeless people are to blame for their deprivation because of their drinking habits, mental instability, or their lack of purpose and initiative. This blames the victim and ignores the powerful structural forces that push many people into homelessness. 

When homeless people do have mental difficulties or problems with alcohol, these situations are identified as the cause of homelessness. However, when a well housed middle class person is mentally ill or an alcoholic it is an unfortunate situation which requires attention and treatment. Clearly, there is a class bias involved here. 

Does mental illness cause homelessness or does the stresses induced by homelessness cause mental illness?



There are a number of factors which make young people vulnerable to homelessness and restrict their housing options. There are high levels of young people are not in employment, education or training. Young people face challenges in finding accommodation through a combination of Local Housing Allowance restrictions and shared accommodation rates, a lack of resources for a deposit, and competition in the private rented sector. 

Homeless people are more likely to suffer from a range of health problems including substance misuse, mental health problems, and physical health problems including skin, bone, joint and muscle problems, liver disease and respiratory illness. And the average life expectancy for a rough sleeper is between 43 and 47 years. 


Sleeping on the streets

Many rough sleepers avoid sleeping in conspicuous locations for fear of being attacked, abused, robbed or moved on. In a study carried out by Shelter, rough sleepers reported feeling threatened not only by other members of the street community but by the general public too. Many of those interviewed also claimed to have been subjected to police harassment – this included being unfairly searched, arrested and repeatedly moved on.

Many factors damage the health of people sleeping rough:

  • Cold, hunger and fear experienced by people sleeping rough disrupts their sleep, which in turn damages both mental and physical health.
  • Health is damaged through a lack of basic facilities for personal care such as bathing and washing clothes.
  • Homeless people often have problems with drugs or alcohol, made worse through being on the street.
  • 21 per cent of people interviewed in a Shelter study said that mental health problems were one of the biggest problems facing rough sleepers.



In Britain we’ve failed to build the homes we need for a generation. The impact of this failure is evident in unaffordable house-prices and rents, a quarter of young adults still living with their parents and millions on waiting lists for social housing. 

Shelter, Addressing our housing shortage: Engaging the silent majority, March 2015

Shelter, Addressing our housing shortage: Engaging the silent majority, March 2015

The public now consistently rank housing as a bigger priority than education, crime and pensions. All political parties are now taking housing more seriously, but none has yet captured public confidence that they have a plan to provide homes for the next generation. 


Research Articles and Books

  • Mitchell, F. et al., Living in limbo: survey of homeless households living in temporary accommodation, Shelter, London, 2004.
  • Credland, S. et al., Sick and tired: the impact of temporary accommodation on the health of homeless families, Shelter, London, 2004.
  • Shelter, Reaching Out - a consultation with street homeless people 10 years after the launch of the Rough Sleepers Unit, London, 2007.
  • Shelter, Addressing our housing shortage: Engaging the silent majority, March 2015
  • Timmer, Doug A; Talley, Kathryn D; Eitzen, D. Stanley: Paths to homelessness: extreme poverty and the urban housing crisis. Book. English. Published Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1994
  • Greve, John; Joseph Rowntree Foundation: Homelessness in Britain. Published York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 1991
  • Dibblin, J. (Jane); Shelter Book: Wherever I lay my hat: young women and homelessness, English. Published London: Shelter, 1991