Of people experiencing homelessness in Bristol are not sleeping rough

The prevailing image of homelessness is rough sleeping, but it includes a much broader set of situations that people find themselves in. Shelter UK says: “You are homeless if you have nowhere to stay and are living on the streets. But you can be homeless even if you have a roof over your head. You can be homeless if you do not have rights or permission to stay where you are, or you live in unsuitable housing.”

Both Shelter UK and Crisis recognise that there are a variety of situations that may fit into this definition. These are all ‘red flags’ of homelessness, and include… sofa surfing or staying with friends or family; staying in a hostel, night shelter or B&B, women’s refuge or temporary private and social housing; squatting (because you have no legal right to stay); living in overcrowded accommodation; living in unsuitable accommodation such as ‘beds in sheds’ or vehicles without a parking right; at risk of violence or abuse in their home; living in poor conditions that affect their mental and/or physical health; and / or living apart from their family because they don’t have a place to live together.


The picture of homelessness in Bristol, like in other cities, is a complex one. Our Early Doors project has found that sofa surfing and overcrowding are often experienced together and not always fully understood. For example, a young person may say they are staying with a friend, but, this may involve staying on the floor of multiple acquaintances, having to arrive late at night and then leave early in the morning without somewhere to eat breakfast or shower. Young people also disproportionately experience homelessness in Bristol, along with other groups of people. In general – people of colour, people with disabilities, care leavers and newly recognised refugees are significantly and disproportionally represented in Bristol’s homelessness statistics.

Caring in Bristol believes that everyone has the right to a home, to have hope and to feel part of a community, that’s why we work across a number of projects helping people who are sleeping rough but also helping prevent and support people so they don’t end up on the street in the first place.

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