Report finds squatters among most vulnerable
Squatters are more likely to suffer from mental illness and drug addiction than other homeless people, according to a new report.
Homelessness charity Crisis commissioned the centre for regional economic and social research at Sheffield Hallam University to undertake research looking at homelessness and squatting.
The research, Squatting: a homelessness issue, also revealed that single people who are not a priority for social housing and people with limited access to benefits were much more likely to end up squatting.
The report was commissioned by the charity as the government consultation into the criminalisation of squatting comes to an end on Wednesday.
The report also found that 78 per cent of homeless people who squat had approached their council for help and been recognised as homeless but were not entitled to housing as they were not considered a priority.
Dr Kesia Reeve, leader of the research at CRESR, said: ‘The true plight of squatters revealed by this report is deeply shocking. They have extremely high incidences of mental and physical ill health, learning disabilities, drug and alcohol dependency and a raft of other disadvantages.
‘They squat out of necessity, not choice, in atrocious conditions where they are least likely to be disturbed. These are people that need help – not criminalisation.’
The research concludes that criminalising squatters will criminalise a very vulnerable group of people and that far from being a criminal justice issue, squatting should be treated as a welfare and housing issue.
Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said: ‘It is clear from this research that many people who resort to squatting do so out of sheer desperation, and in appalling conditions.
‘If the government must change a law it should be to ensure all homeless people get the help they desperately need from local councils instead of criminalising some very vulnerable people.’