Two crises interlinked – child homelessness and mental health


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Government figures show that 112,660 households are now living in temporary accommodation. This means that the rate of child homelessness has risen by 15% in the last 12 months – that’s 19,460 more children without a secure and stable place to call home.

Meanwhile, we have an ongoing youth mental health crisis, with 1 in 5 children and young people experiencing a probable mental disorder. The overall poor quality, instability and overcrowding associated with temporary accommodation means that 1 in 4 parents say their child is often unhappy or depressed as a result

The impact of homelessness and temporary accommodation can have a serious negative impact on children’s mental health and wellbeing, the effects of which can last into adulthood. This Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re taking a closer look at the link between youth homelessness and mental health. 

Why are more children and young people in temporary accommodation?

There are many, complex reasons children can find themselves living in temporary accommodation. Family breakdowns, evictions, and family or friends no longer being able to accommodate are some of the main causes behind youth homelessness, and 11% of young people find themselves without a home due to domestic violence.

Temporary accommodation is supposed to be just that – temporary. But the figures show it’s anything but, with two-thirds of families living in temporary accommodation for upwards of 12 months. These prolonged stays in unstable living situations are having a severe impact on the children affected. 

How does temporary accommodation impact children’s mental health?

Lack of sleep

For some children, moving into temporary housing far away from their school can mean waking up as early as 5:00am to make it in on time. 91% of teachers who work with children who are homeless say that arriving at school tired has been an issue. 

Even if they don’t have far to travel to get to school, the noisy, crowded and uncomfortable living conditions often linked to temporary accommodation can prevent children getting enough sleep. Plus, 35% of parents living in temporary accommodation say their children don’t have a bed of their own. Sharing with their siblings or parents can make getting to and staying asleep more challenging, making any mental health issues even worse

Social isolation

For a child, being moved to temporary accommodation can mean being relocated miles away from their original home and their friends. But even if their friends are nearby, children may not want to or be able to invite anyone over to their accommodation due to cramped conditions or poor quality.

Over three-quarters of teachers who work with children struggling with homelessness or bad housing report friendship breakdowns, and 28% of parents say their children find it hard to make or keep friends as a result of living in temporary accommodation. 

The loneliness that can come from this level of social isolation is a very real impact of homelessness that can have a profound effect on children’s self-esteem and mental health. 


It’s common for children in temporary accommodation to feel worried about stigma linked to their housing situation. Young people, especially teenagers, can feel too ashamed to tell anyone that they are struggling with homelessness, and might even go as far as pretending they still live at their own address. 

The anxiety around their peers ‘finding them out’ can be another major contributing factor to the mental health issues that can come with living in temporary accommodation. 

Lifelong impact

The consequences of living in unstable housing can extend far beyond childhood, leading to poorer psychological health over time. People who face housing insecurity when they are children are more likely to experience both anxiety and depression in later childhood, and are more likely to have depression into adulthood.

Ultimately, experiencing homelessness in childhood can start a vicious cycle of exclusion and loss of control with far-reaching consequences. It’s clear that, as a country, we need to do far more to support children and families facing homelessness. 

Britain’s lack of social housing and potential introduction of the Criminal Justice Bill is only further excluding those who most need help. You can support people facing homelessness in your community by asking your MP to oppose the Criminal Justice Bill, or by donating to Simon on the Streets. Every penny allows us to continue our outreach work and provide hope for those without a voice.

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