At greatest risk of homelessness
estimated 88% of the homeless population in London is male
Men are at greatest risk of homelessness and it is estimated 88% of the homeless population in London is male. As with many areas where the male gender is a risk factor there seems to be little focus on the experience of being male and its relationship to homelessness. There is often reference to other vulnerable groups, including minority ethnic groups, women, migrant workers, ex-service personnel, people with learning disabilities, those with mental health problems, and care-leavers but men are rarely considered.
In a survey carried out by Crisis in the UK the reasons for homelessness most often cited by female participants, were physical or mental health problems and escaping a violent relationship. The most frequently reported reasons for male participants were relationship breakdown, substance misuse, and leaving an institution (prison, care, hospital etc.). The high rates of mental health problems and substance misuse in indigenous homeless populations seem to be associated with childhoods spent in care, experiences of sexual abuse and other traumatic life experiences.
Social housing in the UK is limited and priority is given to vulnerable groups and families with children. High levels of poverty, unemployment and lack of available housing can mean that many people remain without. Men are often considered the least vulnerable of all groups but whilst homeless women may be more vulnerable than men, homeless men are also vulnerable.
There is no mention that women should be given housing priority over men which makes it difficult to understand why the rates are so much higher for men. The principles of the Birkenhead Drill which states that in life threatening situations women and children should be saved first seems of relevance here. This was first applied to sinking ships (HMS Birkenhead) and was used to great effect during the sinking of HMS Titanic where 74% of the women on board were saved but only 20% of the men.