The language of homelessness

It is important that we are clear about the language of homelessness – throughout my writing on this blog , and elsewhere, I will try to use the following terms:

Ambulant begging – The practice of walking up to people to ask for money, as opposed to static begging. Can be an unintended consequence of enforcement action taken against the more visible practice of static begging.

Anti-social behaviour (ASB) – is defined as “Behaviour by a person which causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as the person”. (Antisocial Behaviour Act 2003 & Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011)

Assertive outreach – A way of engaging clients and organising and delivering care via a specialised team to provide intensive, highly-coordinated assessment, referral and flexible support. Characterised by a persistent, long-term presence and approach to building relationships.

Begging – Asking people for money, and in this context includes behaviours which include poor-quality busking, crafts etc.

Designing-out – Adapting, changing and designing the built environment to deter behaviours that are deemed undesirable or anti-social. (E.g. removing benches in areas frequented by street drinkers, gating shop doorways to prevent rough sleeping etc.)

Enforcement – Assertive and potentially punitive actions under legislative powers designed to deter, prevent, disrupt or punish crime and anti-social behaviour.

Exit offer – A comprehensive and accessible range of responsive, flexible social support – delivered within a multi-agency framework – designed to meet an individual’s multiple and complex needs at the same time, in order to achieve a sustainable exit from street-attached lifestyles.

High-yield [begging] sites – Locations with a built environment that are sites of repeat begging activity because they are perceived to be particularly lucrative. Examples include ATMs, night-time economy venues, and outside shops of a particularly high footfall.

Homeless – “You should be considered homeless if you have no home in the UK or anywhere else in the world available for you to occupy. You don’t have to be sleeping on the streets to be considered homeless.” (Shelter.) People may still be considered homeless who are living in squats, in temporary arrangements with friends / family with no long-term prospect of settled accommodation, etc.

Multiple and complex needs – The experience of several problems at the same time, such as mental ill-health, homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse, offending, and family breakdown. People with multiple and complex needs may have ineffective contact with services that are designed to deal with one problem at a time, and are are often trapped living chaotic lives.

New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) – also called “legal highs”, NPS are defined by the present government as, “‘Psychoactive drugs, newly available in the UK, which are not prohibited by the United Nations Drug Conventions but which may pose a public health threat comparable to that posed by substances listed in these conventions.’ They are currently legally available in retail shops and through online distributors, but are the subject of draft legislation. (Psychoactive Substances Bill, 2015-16)

Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) – A public spaces protection order is an order that identifies a specific public place and gives powers to the local authority to prohibit specified behaviours in the restricted area and/or requires specified things to be done by persons carrying on specified activities in that area. The order may not have effect for more than 3 years and the Local Authority must consult with the chief officer of the police and the local policing body before issuing the order.Failure to comply with a public spaces protection order is an offence. Exeter City Council is currently consulting about imposing a PSPO in the city centre.[1]

Rough sleeping – Also called “street homelessness”, a type of homelessness where an individual quite literally is reduced to living and sleeping in open, public spaces – whether through circumstances or choice. Many people who sleep rough will suffer from multiple health conditions, such as mental health problems and drug misuse, and they are also in greater danger of violence, suicide and premature death than the general population.

Sex work – The exchange of sexual services for material compensation – and this can include cash, accommodation, and drugs / alcohol. Sex work is usually grouped as indoor (escorting, massage parlours, brothels) or on-street (outdoor), with the latter being considered far more risky, and associated with more chaotic lifestyles. Exeter has little or no on-street sex industry.

Shoplifting – An acquisitive crime that occurs when someone steals merchandise offered for sale in a retail store. Repeat and prolific shoplifting behaviour can be associated with class A drug use, and some police forces are reporting increases in shoplifting caused by destitution.

Street activity – A broad, generic term for a range of street-based anti-social behaviour, including rough sleeping, begging, street drinking etc.

Street-attachment – A term that recognises the “pull” that street-based lifestyles and peer relationships may have on individuals – including those that are now housed. “Street-attached” individuals may still spent significant periods of time on the street, remain part of street communities, and engage in street-based anti-social behaviour.

Street community / street population – A broad term for groups of people who are street-attached, and engage in street-based anti-social behaviour.

Street drinking – Consumption of (often high-strength) alcohol in a public setting outside of licensed premises. Street drinking can be associated with increased anti-social behaviour, litter, and aggression.

Vulnerably housed – A term for people who are technically housed, but where their accommodation is sub-standard, not sustainable or otherwise not assured, or where it is not suitable to their needs or possibly even detrimental to their health and wellbeing.

[1] http://exeter.gov.uk/pspo/

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