Homelessness in the UK
The latest data from the government Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities reveals that in March 2022 an estimated 1,806 people were sleeping rough on a single night. When compared to the same period from the year before, the number had increased by 19%.
Homelessness is caused by a number of factors that are different for each person. There are structural factors within society that contribute to homelessness for certain groups. These include poverty, inequality, housing supply and unemployment. In many cases, these factors may interlink with personal problems such as poor physical and mental health, alcohol and drug abuse, criminality, forcing people into homelessness.
Self Storage and Homelessness
The self storage industry has the potential to help with the problem of homelessness in the UK. Storage units have always operated as a replacement for the home space, where belongings that cannot be kept at home can be stored. In fact, the first recognised self storage business began with the aim of helping immigrants moving to America by temporarily storing their belongings while they found a new home.
The connection between self storage and homelessness appears simple. Renting a storage unit in a big city is much cheaper than renting a room. Modern units also come with a number of features that make them suitable for living in. Units often have temperature control and Wifi. On top of this, store yards tend to have excellent security features, such as guards, gates and CCTV. Staying over in a unit may seem like a safer option than staying on the street.
Despite all this, it is illegal to live in a storage unit, and for good reason. Storage units are not made for living in. Storage units are often closed off spaces with now windows. This means that they have no natural light or ventilation. Living without these things can cause depression, psychological problems and even death. People also need a constant water supply and sanitary facilities and these are not found in storage yards. If a person is considering moving into a storage unit, they are probably desperate. However, this is a very dangerous thing to consider.
How Self Storage Can Help
While storage yards cannot provide shelter to the homeless, they can still help. One of the biggest problems of sleeping rough is that you have to carry your belongings with you everywhere.
Personal belongings and valuable items must be packed down and taken to shelters, public bathrooms and even job interviews. This problem can result in the damage of the belongings, as well as the inability to get a job, which in turn keeps the person within a cycle of unemployment resulting in homelessness.
Self Storage yards have the potential to help by breaking the cycle. By providing a space to store personal belongings, storage yards can literally carry the load for people who need to focus on things that make their lived more stable. In addition to this, storage yards can provide a safe space for important documents, such as birth certificates and right-to-work documentation. If these items get damaged, they are hard to replace.
Initiatives have already been created to help the homeless in this way. A storage centre specifically set up for providing transitional storage for the homeless was set up in San Diego in 2009. The store yard provides over 350 bins for homeless people, each holding up to 96 gallons. Commercial store yards in the UK need to follow suit to help alleviate the problem of homelessness here.
Self Storage can be transformative for homeless people in the UK. Not only does it free people up to attend medical check-ups, housing appointments and job interviews, it also alleviates some of the psychological effects of homelessness. When moving their belongings in and out of storage each day, people can interact with store yard guards, providing vital human connection to combat loneliness. Stress caused by carrying around important belongings every day is also alleviated.
Support for people sleeping rough in England, March 2022, Gov.UK
Kriston Capps, ‘Can Cities Ease Homelessness With Storage Units?’, Bloomberg UK, 2014