Ruth Stone is a Strategic Communications Project Manager at Crisis and her role is all about helping people understand the realities of homelessness. Here, she shares 4 things you might not know about homelessness.

What does home mean to you?

For me, it’s a place I share with my partner and our cats. It’s a space to unwind and be myself. I’ve moved home a lot – and whenever I get to a new place, I unpack my things as quickly as possible so it feels like home. I start with the kitchen because I am never happier than when I’m cooking.

Whatever home means to you, it’s about much more than a roof over your head or somewhere to sleep. And yet sometimes we can forget this when we think about the issue of homelessness.

The views that we have about any topic – including homelessness – are formed in us over a long period of time. They come from our experience, our culture and our media. What we see and hear on the news, in film, on podcasts or just in conversation with family, friends and colleagues all shapes our thinking.

When it comes to homelessness, research has shown there is often a big gap between the realities of what it is, what causes it and how to end it – and how people think and understand the issue.

My role at Crisis is focused on helping to close this gap by working with organisations and individuals to tell a different and more helpful story about homelessness. Which is why I’m sharing four things you might not know about homelessness.

1. Homelessness can be visible or hidden

Homelessness doesn’t look one way. When we think about homelessness, we tend to go straight to the most visible form – rough sleeping. Which makes sense as this is the type of homelessness we see as we travel around our towns and cities.

But homelessness can also be less visible or hidden. For example, many people might be sleeping on a different friend’s sofa every week.

Hidden homelessness also includes unconventional accommodation. This is when people sleep in spaces that are not intended as residential accommodation, like a car, lorry or shed. Some people sleep on public transport because they have nowhere else to go.

None of us should be forced to experience any of these types of homelessness. All of us should have a safe and stable home.

2. Homelessness can be short term or long term

Hostels, shelters and refuges are forms of emergency and temporary accommodation. People may be in this type of accommodation from one night to indefinitely.

The cost of living, rising rents and a sheer lack of truly affordable homes means a record number of us are currently trapped in temporary accommodation.

When we’re forced to live in temporary accommodation that is often unsuitable, insecure and far away from our support networks, it makes it so much harder to do basic things – like register for a doctor, cook a healthy meal, travel to work or do our homework.

3. All forms of homelessness are bad for our health

Whether someone is sleeping on the streets in fear of their safety, facing the constant stress of living with their family in a cramped hotel room or having to move to another sofa week after week, homelessness takes a huge toll on people’s mental health.

Home should be a space where we can thrive. Where we can relax and spend time with our loved ones. It should be a place where we can rest and recover if we are ill.

It’s not ok that the health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of us is being harmed by homelessness. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

4. Homelessness can be ended

The final thing I want to share about homelessness is that it can and must be ended. This isn’t me being optimistic or naïve. This is something that is entirely achievable – but it requires political commitment as well as support from people like you.

My Grandma was born in 1924 – four years before women in the UK had the same voting rights as men. As a queer person, I grew up thinking I’d never be able to marry someone that I love. We decided as a society that things could be different.

And we can do the same with homelessness.

We know what needs to be done – just like we did with voting rights, and with equal marriage. We need to build more truly affordable homes and provide more support for those of us at the brink. The more of us who come together to demand this change, the louder our voice will be heard.