Kurt used to be one of the brightest students in the class, but in the past couple of months, there has been a major change in his behaviour. He does not mingle with other students in the college, and it seems like he’s always tired. Later, it was discovered that Kurt is living in his car for the past few months since his landlord asked him to leave the place. Well, this is not an isolated incident in the UK. In fact, there were more than 230,000 homeless people in the country till 2016, and the statistics suggest that the number is only going to increase in the upcoming years.
Britain is heading towards a housing crisis, and it has already been evident in the latest reports. A study initiated by Cambridge University’s Centre for Housing and Planning Research reveals that there are more than 2000 homeless people who are between the age of 16 and 25. However, it is believed that the actual number of homeless people in Britain is much higher than the official statistics. As a matter of fact, the government figures do not even give a full picture of the issue as it does not recognise the people as homeless who fail to meet the narrow criteria for being homeless. Besides, some of the homeless people do not get in touch with the authority, and those who do are often considered as “intentionally homeless”.
The scenario in the UK is getting worse for the young students. Many students like Kurt are failing to keep a shelter over their head as the accommodation charges in the UK are increasing significantly every year. While homelessness is on the rise, the instances of “rough sleeping” and “sofa-surfing” are also quite mind-boggling. A report provided by ComRes suggests that 17 per cent of the young crowd in the UK experience rough sleeping. The report also revealed the fact that when the data was scaled up to mirror the wider population, around 1.3 million young people (ageing 16-24) slept rough during the past year (2016). In such moment of crisis, education takes backseat, and for obvious reasons, one cannot blame the student for his poor academic performance.
A lot of students in the UK drop out of their courses as they struggle to afford their accommodations. As mentioned before, plenty of them ends up being homeless which becomes a major roadblock to their academics. So how do they improve their academics, even though they have no roof over their head? This has been the topic of several debates and discussions in the last few years, but somehow the solution to the problem has not been found yet. The government and a number of NGOs have made some effort to make things better for the homeless people, but that’s not enough. In an announcement, a government spokesperson mentioned that the government had increased their expenditure to avert the instances of homelessness while making over £500m available to local authorities and voluntary sector since 2010.
The situation for the homeless youngsters at the United States isn’t any better than the homeless crowd in the UK, but some colleges and universities in the states have started to understand the gravity of the situation. Some campuses in the states have established food pantries while some provide short-term housing facilities for students in crisis. UK hasn’t seen such attempt in the recent years and even if it has, the attempt hasn’t made the news yet, which is equally disappointing. However, international students, who have come to the country with the sole purpose of getting a degree from a UK university, are surviving somehow in the country even though some of them have lost their shelter during their stay.
How do people continue their study in the UK despite being homeless?
Even though the odds are against them, some homeless students are stubborn enough to continue their study in the UK. Whether it’s a local student or an international one, the challenges for all the homeless students are more or less the same. For an international student, it can be bit harder though since he is unfamiliar with the places and other significant things. In the online forums, you will find a number of homeless people talking about their struggles and challenges. Some of them have mentioned how they live inside the car during the night and how people react to their lifestyle.
A homeless person has shared her experience of living inside her car in the parking lot at the Open Mic platform in Bohemian.com. She tells how it has become so difficult to find an affordable room in the UK. In fact, she also tells how some landlords are taking advantage of the situation and increasing the rent, especially when the holidays are here. Every Friday she parks her car, which is basically her living room, near the Burger King and uses the free wifi to do her work. Well, this is still better than what most of the homeless people go through in the UK. Things are worse for the people who don’t even have a car.
Having a part-time job does help a person to support his/her expenses, but that does not solve the accommodation problem. Some handful of the homeless people gets to spend the night at the store they work at, but the numbers are pretty low. It is quite unfortunate that a significant portion of the society is suffering like this, but what is more disappointing is that the rest of the society is quite oblivious to their existence. This is because a majority of the homeless students don’t want to project themselves as homeless. The term “homeless” often gives a negative image of the person which is why a majority of the homeless crowd don’t want to be recognised as homeless in the first place.
The government of UK has put up a commendable effort to help those who are legally homeless in the country by introducing emergency housings. There are parameters to determine whether you are legally homeless or not. In fact, they have mentioned the list of conditions which determines if a person is legally homeless or not. The list includes the following conditions:
- If a person does not have legal right to live in accommodation anywhere in the world
- If a person can’t get into his home (for instance, if his landlord has locked him out)
- If it is unreasonable for a person to stay in his home (if there is a risk of violence or abuse)
- If he’s forced to live apart from his family or close people since the accommodation is not suitable for him
- If the person is living in extremely poor condition (such as overcrowding).
The person needs a council to determine if he’s legally homeless. If you permanently live in the UK, you can be eligible for the assistance from the government. In case you are an immigrant, you can’t enjoy the privilege. You can also apply for emergency housing if you are in priority need. This is possible under certain circumstances.
- If you or someone you live with is pregnant
- If there’s a dependent child who lives with you under the age of 16 or under 19 if he’s studying full-time
- If you are vulnerable (due to old age or some disability)
- If you are homeless due to a disaster (fire, flood, or other causes).
This emergency housing plan by the government is certainly a great initiative for those who are genuinely homeless in the country, but as mentioned before, a lot of homeless people refrain from being recognised as homeless which makes it difficult for the government to help them in crisis. Besides, the actual number of the homeless people is presumably much higher than the official statistics. So even if the government is making positive efforts to help the homeless people in the country, it has barely been able to scratch the surface only.
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