Types of Homelessness


There is a sliding scale around homelessness – someone in temporary accommodation is technically homeless, but clearly in a better situation than someone sleeping rough. The various ‘degrees’ of homelessness require different responses, and Devon has wonderfully diverse agencies set up to help people in very different situations.

What is important to recognise is just how many different types of homelessness exist that are largely invisible. Rough sleeping is arguably the most extreme and visible form of homelessness, but it should not define what we think of as homelessness.

A few quick examples of ‘hidden’ homelessness we help overcome: 

  • Last year we supported over 100 patients leaving hospital in Exeter who would otherwise have been discharged as homeless.
  • Also last year, over 100 young people in Devon found themselves with nowhere safe to sleep; often due to a family breakdown,and approached Nightstop for help. We provided around 650 nights of accommodation to these young people thanks to our amazing volunteer hosts.

We try and ensure that people get the support they need at these critical times; to ensure that they are not exposed to rough sleeping and the risks and harm associated with it. Success to us is a person or a family having a firm foundation upon which to build their longer term goals and ambitions.

A really helpful way to categorise homelessness (which I found last year when preparing to give a talk) was as follows:

1. “situational homelessness” describes the state of people who are temporarily homeless but generally have a dwelling;
2. “cyclical homelessness” is used with reference to people who go back and forth between living on the street and having a dwelling;
3. “chronic homelessness” the most visible type, applies to those who have been without stable housing for an extended period of time.

These are not exclusive headings, and a person might experience all 3 types of homelessness. Where it does help is with our understanding of homelessness, its causes and possible solutions. 

Hopefully, if we can explain more about what we do (and why), then you and the general public will be better informed about the types of challenges faced by your neighbours, friends, colleagues and also those people who you will never see ‘on the streets’, but are suffering and in need of compassion, support and above all else, hope.