Économie et Statistique n° 391-392 - 2006The Homeless
A segmented homeless support network
Homeless shelters and hot meal distribution services, which are concentrated in large cities, welcome close to 55,000 homeless people per day during winter. Whilst one in ten homeless people sleep rough or in shanty housing, the large majority is housed by local government or charities. This group of homeless people is extremely diverse: half are single men on very low incomes, unemployed or economically inactive after having started careers in low-skilled jobs, but there are also younger, more qualified people, who are usually earning an income, young mothers receiving social benefits, immigrants living with their partner and children, and a small number of single men close to retirement age. In order to accommodate these people in their diversity, the homeless housing sector is segmented, providing both individual and collective shelter, on either a long-term or temporary basis. Thus, homeless shelters accessible throughout the day, hotel accommodation, independent dwellings and work communities are favoured over collective shelters which are closed during the day to residents. The accommodation centres which offer the best services select their residents according to their financial means and their family situation. Therefore, people living alone with extremely low incomes have little chance of receiving a personalised, long-term accommodation service, with the centres favouring people who live with their partner and/or children or those with the financial means to pay for the services. This support network selection process influences the type of accommodation a homeless person has access to: either council housing or low-rent private housing.