WHILE MOST people think of homelessness in terms of sleeping rough or begging, the reality of housing need is actually much wider. Visible homelessness is just the tip of the iceberg. Under the surface are people who are homeless and living in temporary accommodation, hostels, poor quality housing, moving around between friends' sofas, and facing eviction, harassment, repossession or domestic violence.
CHAS, the Catholic Housing Aid Society, has been helping people in housing need for more than 40 years, and currently provides advice and support for anyone with housing problems at ten advice centres across the country.
Housing advisers like Ian Bottomly for central London, work to help these "hidden homeless" people. They have often reached a crisis, and preventative work by housing advisers can save them from ending up on the streets.
Ian explains that housing advisers aim to prevent homelessness by early intervention. As skilled advocats who, on behalf of their clients, can challenge powerful bureaucracies or intimidating individuals, they can take a wider, holistic approach, and offer advice on far more than housing options.
"Being homeless or threatened with homelessness is a terrifying and debilitating experience. Quite often people are disregarded by landlords and bureaucracies, fobbed off, and left without explanations. If they can take informed decisions, they start to regain control over their lives.