Big Issue Vendor

Hidden homelessness: The cold hard facts

The facts and stats you need to know about the often-forgotten sofa surfers and hostel-dwellers in the UK

In this week’s Big Issue, we investigate the unseen side of Britain’s homelessness shame – the hidden homeless.

In the run-up to Christmas, the country’s rough-sleeping epidemic became a hot topic as many focussed their attention on the homelessness crisis and the 4,500 people living on the streets.

But it is just the tip of the iceberg with more than 300,000 people hidden away in hostels, temporary shelters or unsuitable and overcrowded accommodation.

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The aforementioned figures do not include those sofa-surfing who are not registered by local authorities as being in need of housing assistance. So here are the facts and stats you need to know:

236,000 – Core homeless population in 2016 [Homelessness Projections: Core Homelessness in Britain 2017, Crisis] Includes people rough sleeping, sofa surfing, squatting, living in hostels and unsuitable forms of temporary accommodation, people forced to sleep in cars, tents and night shelters.

65% – Proportion of young homeless people who are studying, employed or on a work placement scheme [Homeless Link, 2016]

53% – Rise in sofa surfers from 2011-16 [Crisis] Sofa surfers are defined as: ‘people staying temporarily with households other than their immediate family in overcrowded conditions.’


The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.

120 – Families in Britain lose their homes every day [Shelter]

225,000 – Young people in London have stayed in an insecure place because they had nowhere safe to call home [London Assembly Housing Committee, 2017]

POVERTY – The most important driver of homelessness in all its forms is poverty, which features strongly in all of the statistical models [Homelessness Projections: Core Homelessness in Britain 2017, Crisis]

In this week’s Big Issue, we head to the frontline to meet the New Horizon Youth Centre, near Euston Station in London.

Last year, staff at the centre, which has the backing of patron and Channel 4 news anchor Jon Snow, helped 2,450 young people, aged between 16 and 21, with everything from securing accommodation and work placements, to fitness and music classes, workshops focusing on self-esteem and sexual health.

Find out all about their work and much more in this week’s Big Issue magazine, available now. We also pay tribute to two vendors who were tragically killed while working in Birmingham. On the fifth anniversary of the deaths we ask: how have things changed for the men and women on the streets since?