Homelessness Terms and Definitions (from Dignify’s perspective)…

Rough Sleeping

The most visible of homelessness where people sleep in open air conditions such as on pavements, in parks, stairwells, subways etc

Affordable housing is a huge issue in society, especially for people on low incomes. Long-term rough sleeping is about much more than housing.

Statutory Homeless

When you are assessed by your local authority as being in priority need of housing usually due to: age, young dependants, physical health and vulnerability. There is a duty of care to house you in Local Authority housing provision or housing that they have referral access to if you are assessed as  priority need. Rough sleeping, physical health, addiction, mental health or being vulnerable does not in itself count as being in priority need or give automatic access to housing. There is a formal in depth assessment of an individuals circumstances. Anyone in theory can go on a waiting list for a local authority property but it is not allocated in order of application but usually by assessment of need.

Sofa Surfing

Usually referred to when someone is in between their own tenancy and crashing out on the sofa of a friend or family member.

Hidden Homeless

Can often fall under Rough Sleeping and or Sofa Surfing, usually referred to when people are sleeping on night busses at airports or crashing with friends/ family- (are difficult see, quantify and report on unless a homeless application is made with the local authority who would collate the statistics.

Housing Benefit

Is a benefit to help with rent and is based on income. If someone is on benefits due to sickness or unemployment they would usually be entitled to  housing benefit to help with rent. People on low income can sometimes receive a housing top up benefit. An assessment is made, on the person and property details, before someone is eligible for housing benefit. Housing benefit will not always cover all the rent and is paid out after rent is due.

Hostels that also offer support always have the rent fully covered by Housing Benefit. People have to be entitled to benefits in order to stay there. Usually, housing benefit pays the rent, a local authority contracts a charity and pays for the staffing support and an individual pays a service charge out of their benefit income.

Hostel Service Charge

This is usually a weekly or fortnightly charge that an individual pays for utilities. The amount often depends on if food is included in the service charge and if so for how many meals per day but can range from an average of £8- £30 per week.


Homelessness & Rough Sleeping

Ingrained or entrenched rough sleeping is about people and chronic exclusion as much as it is about housing.

From a mixture of being excluded at school age, trauma never addressed, bereavement, relationship breakdown, post traumatic stress (esp linked to being in the armed forces), being brought up in the care system, undiagnosed issues never properly addressed (such as mental health, autism, dyslexia) are all different reasons of why people become entrenched on the streets and find it difficult to integrate into society interdependently.

The majority of peoples’ links to society during their rough sleeping years have been through services from the voluntary and statutory sectors rather than interdependent work and social networks. People rough sleeping for a significant length of time are frequently chronically excluded from wider society. Judgements often develop and intensify as a two way process to the person sleeping rough about why they are there and what they should do and from the person sleeping rough who increasingly feels excluded from society.

Solutions for rough sleeping, in our view, are about developing pathways from chronic exclusion to social inclusion as much as it is about housing. We believe a SeaChange is needed from homelessness services and society as well as from an individual towards society.