Basit Mahmood Metro Monday 23 Dec 2019 12:02 am
Sofa surfing is having ‘horrific’ effects on people’s mental and physical health, a new report by a leading homelessness charity claims. National homelessness charity Crisis published new research on Monday, which found that 80 per cent of people said their mental health had suffered and 77 per cent that their physical health had deteriorated as a result of sofa surfing. Sofa surfing refers to homeless people who temporarily stay with a number of friends and relatives, for example on their sofa, while attempting to find permanent accommodation. The latest figures from the charity estimate there are more than 71,400 families and individuals across Great Britain who are forced to stay with friends or on family sofas or floors on a short-term basis because they have nowhere else to go. The report, called ‘It Was Like A Nightmare – The Reality Of Sofa Surfing In Britain Today’, was based on interviews with 114 people across 12 locations in England, Scotland and Wales. It found that many people said the downturn in their mental health was due to ‘feeling like a burden, tension with their host and insecurity of their living situation’.
It also found that people reported physical health issues such as extreme back and neck pain, chronic fatigue and the effects of poor diet – with many having no access to cooking facilities. One of the key drivers of sofa surfing for more than half of the participants was a lack of affordable housing, with nearly two-fifths reporting that their housing benefit did not cover their rent. The report also found that sofa surfing – which Crisis said is the most common form of homelessness, making up 42 per cent of the total – can also leave people isolated.
t found that around 60 per cent of people said they were seeing friends and family less, with nearly a third reporting that this was because they felt ashamed of their living situation. Crisis said that for many people sofa surfing was not ‘temporary’ or a ‘stepping stone’, with around a third having done so for between six months and three years. The charity said that its findings showed that ‘for many participants sofa surfing had not been a fortuitous stepping stone on – and away – from rough sleeping situations, for example, but rather a perpetuation of already existing insecure – and dangerous – housing trajectories that they struggle to get out of’. Chief executive of Crisis, Jon Sparkes, said: ‘We know homelessness causes untold human suffering. ‘Too many people in our society are facing unbearable pressures, forced to sleep on sofas and floors night after night after night.
The harsh reality of sofa surfing is clear to see here – people trapped in this situation with no way out and everyday facing the worry that today could be the day they are asked to leave, with nowhere else to go. None of us should be forced to live this way. He called on the government to invest in housing benefit, so it ‘truly covers the cost of the rents across the country’ and also for local councils ‘recognise sofa-surfing as a form of homelessness that is eligible for assistance across the board.’ Crisis is urging people to help by donating £28.87 to reserve a place for someone experiencing homelessness at one of Crisis’s Christmas centres, which are expected to welcome more than 4,500 guests over the festive period. A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: ‘The Government is working to bring homelessness to an end, which is why this week we have announced an additional £260 million of funding so councils up and down the country can provide crucial services tailored to their areas. ‘But we’re going even further, ensuring more integrated working between our local health and housing services, including committing more than £30 million to healthcare services for people who are sleeping rough.’
The threat of living rough can be debilitating