Économie et Statistique n° 391-392 - 2006The Homeless
Becoming and remaining homeless: the disintegration of social links or difficulties in accessing housing?
Compared to people living in ordinary housing, homeless people receiving benefits usually live alone and have low incomes. The majority is economically inactive, unemployed or in very low-skilled employment. Moreover, a number of them have gone through difficult experiences, such as immigration, separation, leaving home at a young age, or the death of a parent during childhood. Those people who used to be homeless but who are now living in ordinary housing do not differ greatly from the general population, and they have a similar family situation. However, they are more likely to live in rented council housing or in basic private rented housing, and are also more often accommodated by friends or family. Single people and men, and also people who had never worked, people with the lowest levels of education and the poorest health, all characteristics which had led them into economic difficulties, had remained homeless for the longest amount of time. Single people, people without official papers or those with a low income have little chance of quickly getting council housing. As for private rented housing, residents have to be prepared to accept the extremely poor housing conditions and the high rents. The comparison of homeless people with people who live in similar housing conditions, either because they live in basic accommodation (hotel room, housing without bathrooms) or because they are in precarious employment, not only highlights the poor housing conditions of single people, with low levels of education and regularly unemployed, but also the over-representation of men and immigrants in the most atypical housing. In this respect, the situation of the homeless is an extreme case of a more widespread problem.