How do people become homeless?

The reasons are myriad and diverse

Walk past a homeless person on the street and the assumption for many is that “they got there by their own doing”. The reality is often quite different.

Every homeless person has a different journey, often harrowing and traumatic, and the reasons why people end up without a secure and stable home are myriad and diverse.

Individual factors, such as a lack of qualifications, relationship breakdown or substance abuse, can lead to homelessness as well as family background issues like disputes, sexual and physical abuse from parents or guardians or a previous experience of family homeless.

Sometimes the problems that lead to homelessness come from outside of a person’s control with a lack of support for those leaving care, the armed forces or prison often resulting in life on the streets.


Since 1991 The Big Issue has sold more than 200,000,000 copies – helping the most vulnerable in society earn more than £115 million.

This goes even further when social and economic factors crop up: the rise in unemployment and those living in poverty lagged behind the 2008 economic crash while the lack of affordable housing is being termed ‘the housing crisis’ and is driving low-income families into temporary housing instead. And issues with the roll-out of the Universal Credit are continuing to drive the poorest closer to the brink.

Homeless person
The government has examined dozens of academic studies into homelessness.

Between October and December 2017, the ending of an assured shorthold tenancy with a private landlord was the most common reason for the loss of a settled home. The Homeless Link figures found that 3,680 households fell foul of this, making up 27 per cent of all acceptances in England with 1,160, or 31 per cent of, accepted households in London alone.

These findings, from a nationwide housing survey, were not in isolation either – becoming increasingly common in the last eight years. From a low of 1,060, or 11 per cent, of households by the end of 2009 to the aforementioned 3,680 and highlighting the issue of affordability and the expansion of the private rented sector, which has doubled in size since 2002 and reached 4.5 million households by 2016.

Of course, you do not have to be living on the streets to be homeless – statutory homelessness merely states that a person does not have a secure place to live while hidden homelessness relates to those sofa-surfing with pals or family or living in hostels.

The Big Issue magazine launched in 1991 in response to the growing number of rough sleepers on the streets of London, by offering people the opportunity to earn a legitimate income through selling a magazine to the public. Twenty-five years on, our vendors come from a variety of backgrounds and face the myriad of problems associated with poverty and inequality.