Skip to content

Of tents and sleeping rough: rural homelessness

  • by JW

“This crisis is not a “lifestyle choice” but a consequence of housing unaffordability and inadequate support services.” [Universities of Kent and Southampton]


The countryside group the Rural Services Network feels that the government is complacent over rural mental health

Many homeless people suffer from such conditions, with all sorts of studies looking at homelessness and mental health and the never-ending loop: homelessness, psychiatric disorder, and mortality.

The RSN have just put together their response to the Home Secretary’s proposed legislation on homelessness. And they are rather dismayed:

As the Rural Homelessness Counts Coalition , a collective of over 20 organisations committed to eradicating homelessness, we must voice our deep concerns over the Home Secretary’s recent statements and legislative proposals to limit the use of tents by those experiencing homelessness.

The increase in homelessness is not confined to urban centres; our rural communities are witnessing an alarming surge, with a 24% rise in rural rough sleeping within a year. This crisis is not a “lifestyle choice” but a consequence of housing unaffordability and inadequate support services, as evidenced by research from the Universities of Kent and Southampton.

The Home Secretary’s proposals, while aimed at urban homelessness, will also impact rural communities where tents are also often a last resort for those without shelter. The measures to penalise tent usage and the charities that provide them are misguided. They do not address the root causes of homelessness and instead threaten the very organisations working tirelessly to alleviate this issue in both urban and rural settings.

Back in 2017, rural homelessness ‘crisis’ was being hidden as people sleep in barns and tents. Meanwhile, rural homelessness is getting worse in England – with a groundbreaking report showing a chronic increase in rural homelessness coming out in the spring:

The countryside is beset by a ‘hidden homelessness’ crisis driven by soaring housing costs and a gaping shortfall in local authority funding, a new report shows.

The true scale of the crisis is likely to be far higher than the official statistics. The year-long study, which included a survey of 157 frontline support workers, service providers, NGOs, and shelters, found a large majority thought rural homelessness was a serious problem that was getting worse. Key findings include:

  • 91% of respondents in rural areas have seen homelessness increase in the past five years.
  • 83% of respondents in rural areas said their job had become harder in the past five years.
  • 81% of respondents believe that rough sleeping is experienced differently in rural areas compared to urban areas.