What is “homelessness” and what does it mean to experience it?
Homelessness is not limited to living and sleeping on the streets. In reality, you can have a roof over your head and still be experiencing homelessness.
That’s because homelessness is a continuum encompassing a wide range of living conditions that arise when an individual or a family has no permanent housing or the means and ability to acquire it.
It includes people who “sleep rough” in public places, to those who have a home but are at risk of losing it, as well as every housing situation in between – for example, shelters or temporary accommodation like couch surfing.
People may fluctuate between these living conditions on a frequent basis, and the changes may be very dramatic. That’s because homelessness is not a static state; it’s a fluid experience.
The fluidity of the homelessness experience is shaped by several factors. Big societal causes like economic downturns or a lack of affordable housing combine with personal circumstances to make an individual’s experience of homelessness different from their previous experiences and from those of other people.
As a result, nobody experiences homelessness in the same way. But every person who is experiencing homelessness is vulnerable and lacks the income and supports to stay housed.