Uncovering the Silent Crisis: Homelessness Beyond City Limits

Recent groundbreaking research spearheaded by the Universities of Kent and Southampton and featuring Turning Tides, has peeled back the layers on rural homelessness, particularly highlighting the escalating situation in areas like West Sussex. This pioneering study unveils the nuanced challenges faced by those experiencing homelessness in rural settings and showcases the innovative, life-saving strategies deployed by organisations like Turning Tides to reach those in dire need. This critical research was commissioned by the Rural Homelessness Taskforce, with the Rural Services Network playing a key role in its initiation, reflecting our commitment to addressing rural homelessness comprehensively.

The report, "Homelessness in the Countryside: A Hidden Crisis," reveals a staggering 24% increase in rough sleeping in rural areas in 2022 compared to the prior year. This alarming statistic shatters the illusion of rural areas as immune to the homelessness epidemic, spotlighting the pervasive nature of this crisis across diverse landscapes.

A critical revelation of the report is the stark funding discrepancy between services targeting rural and urban homelessness. Astonishingly, rural services receive 65% less funding per person, underscoring a grave imbalance that hampers efforts to provide essential support to those grappling with homelessness in less populated areas. This funding gap presents a formidable obstacle, hindering the capacity of organisations to deliver necessary services and interventions to prevent and alleviate homelessness in rural communities.

In the face of this daunting challenge, Turning Tides emerges as a beacon of hope and innovation. Through initiatives such as mobile hubs and the establishment of Roffey Place accommodation, the organisation swiftly addresses the critical needs of individuals who might otherwise remain neglected. These efforts represent exemplary models of how to effectively reach and support individuals facing homelessness in rural areas, offering inspiration and guidance for other regions confronting similar dilemmas.

Heeding the Call to Action

The insights garnered from Turning Tides emphasises the need to recognise the unique experiences of individuals facing homelessness outside urban centres and the importance of targeted, adequately funded interventions. Addressing the disparity in funding between urban and rural services is imperative to ensure equitable access to support across all communities.

RSN has previously highlighted a guide published by the Rural Homelessness Counts Coalition (of which the RSN is a member), and the Local Government Association and brings together voices from local government, community leaders, and experts in the field. It explores effective strategies and practices that can be implemented at the local level to address and prevent homelessness in rural areas including the involvement of various stakeholders and the innovative approaches being employed, you can read more about this here.

The Rural Services Network is part of the Rural Homelessness Counts Coalition. In the ‘Winning the Rural Vote’ campaign, the RSN calls for a national homelessness strategy that includes investing in solutions in rural areas, taking into account the distinct challenges of rural communities.


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