It is virtually impossible to track the number of homeless people that live on the streets and in shop doorways. The nature of homelessness is such that it is impossible to get accurate figures and short of head counts there are no real statistics provided. However, it is known that hundreds of people are forced to sleep on the streets every single night in London alone, and other major cities and large towns also have a similarly troubling problem. The search for an effective strategy to help end homelessness continues, led by shelters and homeless charities across the country and backed by government schemes.
The quest to end homelessness begins with research into the reasons why people become homeless in the first place. While the recession has obviously hit hard and has led to unemployment, missed rental payments, and repossessed homes, the causes of homelessness are more likely to be poor physical and mental health as well as substance abuse and alcoholism.
A breakdown in family relationships can also lead to homelessness and, unfortunately, once a person spends a night on the streets it can become a very difficult cycle to break. Shelters that provide emergency refuge can provide shelter but they do not end homelessness without further work and assistance from the public and from other charities and organisations.
Before shelters can hope to help end homelessness they need to address the problems that the homeless face and some do this very well. Having no postal address is a major problem because it prevents people from getting a bank account, holding down a job, or even getting and receiving benefits and the healthcare that they so desperately require. To end homelessness this needs to be addressed and resolved.
To end homelessness there needs to be a major campaign that combines local and central government, various charities and frontline and emergency homeless services. Those that are currently homeless need to be rehabilitated back into society, provided with a means to become self supporting, and it needs to be ensured that they do not fall down the same track of becoming homeless once again.
St Mungos is a homeless shelter based in London that offers emergency, outreach, and ongoing services in a bid to end homelessness for those individuals that are unfortunate enough to have to spend nights on the streets.