[Hpn] One in 12 homeless has university degree.
Sun, 25 Aug 2002 06:26:01 -0400
Guardian Unlimited Observer | UK News | One in 12 homeless has university
Sunday August 25, 2002
A hidden underclass of highly educated people are sleeping rough on
Britain's streets. Almost a quarter of the homeless have GCSEs, with one in
12 possessing a university degree and more than one in 20 having a
According to the charity Crisis, there are more than 400,000 more homeless
people living on Britain's streets than government figures would suggest.
'These are the hidden homeless,' said Debbie Hilton, head of project
management for Crisis. 'They are excluded from government figures because
they are educated enough to secure temporary accommodation for themselves,
despite suffering problems too severe to enable them to escape the streets
The survey found that nearly half of the homeless people questioned
possessed some educational qualifications. Of these, 48 per cent possessed
GCSEs, 16 per cent had A-levels, 15 per cent had a university degree and 13
per cent had some professional qualification.
'The problem is that formal education is not necessarily of any help at all
in equipping people to cope with the traumas that lead to homelessness, such
as mental collapse or family breakdown,' said Hilton.
'The added tragedy is that being educated can often work against these
people's favour when applying for help out of homelessness,' she added.
'There have been reports of educated people being rejected by welfare
services because of assumptions that, if they have qualifications, they must
be able to negotiate their own way out of their difficulties.'
Amy, now 19, had consistently received straight A grades throughout her
school career and, despite the death of her mother from cancer in the week
before her GCSEs, she passed 10 exams with results from A-star to D.
After her mother's death, however, she began using drugs and drinking
heavily. Although she was still at college, studying for three A-levels and
planned to become a teacher, her father asked her to leave home.
Amy spent a year sleeping on the streets, in hostels and on the sofas of
friends. 'I was quite aware that I could have done better for myself, but I
was grieving heavily and, at the time, could see no way out,' she said.
Education can also exacerbate the problems that lead to homelessness by
removing people from the safety net of their families and friends. 'People
can educate themselves out of their family circle and their social spheres,'
said Hilton. 'These people have often no one to help them if things
Sanjay, now 35, graduated from Middlesex University with a degree in
chemical engineering and was working for a large chemical engineering firm
in Reading when he suffered a mental breakdown.
'My family, who are very traditional, wanted me to have an arranged marriage
and join the family business,' he said. 'They thought I had betrayed them
because I had different ambitions, and refused to have anything to do with
During his breakdown, Sanjay spent four years on the street and, although he
has been living in a council house for the last six months, regards his
education as a waste of time.'The world is a very hard place, and if you
stumble academic education is useless in helping you to regain your
position,' he said.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002