What is Homelessness

There are many wise-folk that can provide an academic answer to this question, and (sadly) hundreds of thousands of individuals who can speak from personal experience about what homelessness feels like. 

For me, the important aspect of the word is the first bit – ‘home’. Perhaps defining this is what is important; because we know that homelessness in its most basic term, is the absence of a home. 

The concept of ‘home’ is a very personal one – we have all grown up in different households, with different values, pressures and so on.  For me, some of the qualities of a home are:

  • It’s mine! Not that I own it, or that I will always live there; but I have a front door key, I can come and go as I please, and I can decide who comes in and who doesn’t.
  • It’s safe. If I share, then I know & trust the person. My belongings are secure, and I have (at least) a room where I can be alone and feel that I am safe - a haven away from all of life’s troubles.
  • It’s secure. I know that, as long as I have the means to pay my rent or mortgage, my home is staying mine.
  • It’s affordable. A challenge for many people, but a home should be somewhere that I can afford to live without sacrificing the basics, getting into debt or worse.

Your interpretation of a ‘home’ may be very different to mine; much like our homes are likely to differ also. The reason that homelessness is so important to those of us working at CHA and our partner agencies is empathy – we can imagine what it would be like not to have a ‘home’, or we can recall a time in our lives when we didn’t.  If you take away any of these qualities (safe, secure & affordable), then day to day life becomes really hard. That’s why these words underpin and define CHA’s vision - that suitable, sustainable, secure and affordable housing is a fundamental human right. We exist to support & assist people to access or remain in such accommodation, and to identify and remove barriers which prevent this.

My definition of ‘homeless’ might suggests that there are a lot of people who could/should be deemed as ‘homeless’. We know that thousands of individuals and families in Devon struggle to pay the rent, or do not know how long they can stay where they are. When we try and help people in these and similar situations, we term it homeless prevention; and you can read more about how we are preventing homelessness on our project pages.

For us and everyone involved in homelessness in Devon, there is much more to do. Thankfully, this uphill struggle has brought all of us together more than ever before. The solutions exist – there are great ideas and innovations happening all the time; both here in the UK and across the world. What all of us will ultimately decide is how long we take to find them.