A shocking new report has uncovered a devastating, yet hidden, wave of homelessness sweeping through our rural areas. This alarming surge in countryside rough sleeping, intensified by the cost-of-living crisis, is tearing at the fabric of our rural communities.
BREAKING: Rural Rough Sleeping Skyrockets by 24% in One Year
Housing costs in affluent rural areas are driving an unseen crisis, where the “shame and stigma” of homelessness keep countless vulnerable individuals out of official statistics. This eye-opening study brings to light the true scale of the problem, which is far worse than anyone could have imagined.
Conducted by researchers at the University of Kent and the University of Southampton on behalf of a coalition of rural advocates and housing associations, the independent study exposes a “hidden homelessness” epidemic, fuelled by skyrocketing housing costs and inadequate funding.
> A staggering 91% of rural respondents witnessed a rise in homelessness over the past five years
> 83% reported their job has become more difficult in the same period
> 81% believe rough sleeping experiences in rural areas differ significantly from those in urban settings
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Isolation exacerbates the issue in rural areas, where limited transportation options and lack of support put homeless individuals at even greater risk. Those with physical or mental health needs are most vulnerable.
Farmers are often cited as heroes, allowing people to pitch tents on their land and providing clean water and hot tea. But some are frustrated by regulations that prevent them from helping people sleeping rough, fearing criminalisation by local authorities.
The coalition demands local and national leaders address the dire situation, with recommendations including:
> Factoring the needs of rural communities into all future homelessness strategies
> Improved processes for counting and identifying rural homelessness
> New support services addressing mental health and social and physical isolation
> Dedicated investment for rural social housing and increased welfare funding to cover rent costs
This research uncovers a harrowing reality: countless individuals in our countryside are struggling to maintain a basic standard of living, often hidden in agricultural buildings, outhouses, farmland, or sofa-surfing. Inadequate funding is forcing many to seek help in urban centres. It’s in everyone’s best interest to address this crisis head-on.
Our coalition of charities and housing associations has published a concise briefing, complete with policy recommendations to combat the rural homelessness crisis. Access the briefing here (pdf).