Islamabad - A new study sheds light on the extent of this deep social problem, homelessness, its far-reaching consequences on people’s health and well-being. The researchers, led by Dr Tom Gillespie, of the University of Sheffield, and Dr Kate Hardy, of Leeds University Business School, interviewed people identified by Focus E15 between September 2015 and April 2016. The interviewees had either come to Newham Council for support or were living in hostels.

“The reasons for people becoming homeless were many and varied and often involved a combination of losing their job, cuts to social support, rent arrears, eviction, and family breakdown,” Dr Gillespie said.

Overall, however, the majority of the respondents found the complex housing system confusing and difficult to approach. “The sheer complexity of many respondents’ situations and the various state institutions involved, as well as the significant confusion, lack of information and poor mental health in some, was distressing to hear. This is impacting on some of the most vulnerable populations in society,” Dr Hardy said.

The authors note that an overwhelming proportion of those affected by homelessness were women, who are also put at a disadvantage by the housing system.

Over 67 per cent of respondents were female, and 59 per cent of them had underage dependents. The report points out that the housing system prioritises those who work in the labour market, but it ignores mothers who are often involved in housework and raising children.  People in temporary housing are sometimes offered longterm housing if they move away from London, which also impacts families and single mothers negatively.

This affects families and single mothers in particular, Dr Hardy explains, as they are likely to make decisions based on what is best for their children’s future.

“People facing homelessness are often being informally or formally ‘advised’ to move out of Newham, and 44 per cent had been offered or advised to consider moving out of London altogether. This puts incredible strains upon families. It disproportionately affects single mothers, with serious implications for the well-being and life chances of their children,” the researcher further said.