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Homelessness is an issue which has always been a problem and it remains so today. There are approximately 250,000 homeless people in England. The reasons for homelessness are varied, but the public’s perception remains negative. A predominant perception is that homelessness is a result of bad choices, much as in the 1850s. However, more information about the actual causes of homelessness can be found at the Shelter website.
The current legislation that deals with homelessness is the Housing Act 1996, later amended by the Homelessness Persons Act 2000.
In order to get assistance from a Local Authority, any person presenting as homeless must satisfy the questions set out in the homeless criteria:
1. Are you homeless?
2. Are you eligible?
3. Are you in priority need?
4. Do you have a local connection?
5. Did you make yourself intentionally homeless?
Once the first three questions are answered 'yes', the Local Authority is expected to provide interim accommodation pending enquiries. If a person is found not to be in priority need, the Local Authority is expected to provide information and advice regarding their housing options to end their homelessness. Some criteria from the past still apply. For example, the poor can only get assistance from their own parish. The current criteria for priority is similar to deserving and undeserving criteria in the 1800s.
The responsibility for homelessness moved from charities in the 1800s to government through legislation, though the role of charities is now growing again.