How many homeless people? How many empty properties? Why? Find out, right now!

About 1 in 200 people are homeless in the UK. Think about that. No, really think about that!

If you work in a medium-sized business, which is most of you, chances are at least one of your colleagues does not go home at night, they go to a bench, under a bridge or, if they are ‘lucky’, ‘sofa surf’.

Why and how can this be the case?

The UK is the 5th wealthiest nation on the planet with a GDP of over $3 trillion. Yet, according to Shelter, there are over 280,000 people who do not have their own roof over their head. The establishment argument for doing nothing substantive about homelessness in the UK is cost. Whilst on the face of it, this assertion is clearly absurd, a simple Google search shows cost is not a barrier to providing homes for the homeless.

According to the Ministry of Housing, as of October 2019, there were c. 650,000 empty homes. Of those, nearly 250,000 had been empty for longer than six months! This seems to be a solution staring us in the face.

So, why is it not used?

Despite its own figures, the government claim that there are not enough vacant homes to solve the problem. In an interview with the BBC, the government claimed that the ‘200,000 long-term empty homes’ were not enough to tackle the problem.

If we take the government at face value, and there’s no reason to do so, as the data shows, instead of being able to house nearly 70% of our homeless straight away, the government chooses the status quo. This is an argument for doing nothing until the entire problem is solved! Instead of providing the bare minimum for its populace, HMG protects wealthy ‘investors’ who buy up properties and leave them empty to make financial gains.

The unwanted step-child of an argument that cohabits the awful notion that human beings are not entitled to a secure place to live is based on property rights.

Unless you own land and property, then you are not entitled to anywhere to live. There is no security, no roof over your head, nothing for you or your family to build a life from.

This is an argument for wealth being necessary for human existence!

 ‘Sorry, but if you don’t have wealth I’m afraid you can’t have a staple of life, shelter!’

Without inheriting it, how is it possible for a human to accumulate wealth before they exist? It isn’t!

Capitalism has taken us to the point that just about everything is commodified, land; food; shelter; YOU!

For humans to survive, they require air, food, water and shelter. Take a moment and apply the argument of property rights, It’s mine, I can do what I like with it’, to water or air! 

Would an Environmental Resources Developer, as surely they will call themselves, be allowed to and get away with saying: 

‘I own the water and air. Whatever I want you to give me or do for me, you will.

You have no choice…unless you wish to suffer terminal dehydration or choke to death!’

Would they be allowed to get away with implementing it?

I’m not certain, but if history informs our present, there’s no reason to think they won’t try!

Second homes, holiday homes and ‘buy to let’ are a large part of the problem. They are not the whole problem but legislation to curb these insidious practices would go a long way to allowing people the dignity of their own home.

What can we do?

Contact your MP and demand to know what they are doing to help the homeless in your constituency.

Never contacted your MP before? No problem. Follow this link to and you will find out who your representatives are, including your MP, and they make it so simple to write to them.

Both Shelter and Crisis are at the forefront of fighting for those in our society who are homeless. Both these fantastic organisations have multiple campaigns which can be found at:

Shelter –

Crisis –

Social pressure to bring about just legislation is a powerful tool. Take to all the platforms you have, share articles, like this, pass on the links and make a noise!

This is a hard and ongoing fight, but the fight to help our neighbours who are homeless is necessary. There are many facets to the harm that homelessness does, the way that it is manifest, who it affects and why. The criminalisation of people because they have to sleep rough, the vastly increased risk of those ‘rough sleepers’ being violently assaulted, physical and mental health issues fuelled by insecurity and vulnerability, are just some of the many parts of the shameful story of homelessness in the UK.

This piece is just one of many that will cover the full, disgraceful picture, outlined above, that tells us the real state of society in the UK.

Help us continue the fight!

Check back here at for more in this series. My Party Political Puffin content has this and much more social commentary through a left-wing lens (links below)

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5 thought on “A solution to homelessness”
  1. The housing crisis is a very complex issue empty homes versus homeless can appear a little simplistic. Location, affordability, suitability & fitness for habitation are all important factors. To solve these problems requires central, devolved and local government to formulate an articulate and united policy. It is likely that as our present Tory government seems incapable of understanding issues that affect ordinary people and is currently bogged down with pressing issues such as the pandemic, NHS privatisation, Social Care and Brexit this is low on their agenda or not even on their radar. It is of course important as homelessness directly impacts on the first three of these issues.
    I can only conclude that the burden will keep being put on underfunded Local Authorities who will not be able to adequately address the situation. You have suggested some possible courses of action thank you we can only try.

    1. Hi David,
      Yes, much as any societal issue is complex due to intersectionality, I still do not find the argument, such as that given by government ministers charged with resolving such problems, that this will not solve the whole problem therefore it is not worth doing, completely unconvincing. If someone falls behind with their rent, government, executive, legislative or judiciary, do not put forward an argument that if the person cannot pay the whole sum outstanding it should just be waived. No, they demand that some sort of effort should be made to pay the debt. That effort needs to continue until the issue is resolved.
      Does the ‘social contract’ only apply one way, when supporting private, finance, income and wealth? It would seem so.
      Of course, we as a society need to provide sustainable resolutions to all the intersectional issues, welfare, education and healthcare, for example. Just as the housing issues we face, there are starting points already in place for a more fair distribution of resources. Those solutions need to be embraced by those with not just the political will (various polling data show that homelessness is something that the population of the UK have strong feelings can and should be addressed by government) but those with power that are less interested in their political position than they are about making the lives of all of society materially better.

      Thank you for your comments. I greatly appreciate you taking the time to reply. I apologise for the delay in getting back to you.

      All the best and I hope that you and yours are all well and safe.

      Dave/Puffin (There are quite a few of us Davids/Daves :))

  2. Timely reminder, Dave, that homelessness is solvable. It is not cost but the political will to do so that is the problem. It may not be quite as easy as putting homeless people into vacant homes, many long term homeless require support to get off the streets and that must surely be part of the package. The real scandal is that we have evolved a situation where we accept homelessness as acceptable rather than being outraged every time we see a homeless person.

    1. Hi Dave (Editor),
      Thanks for the comments. I agree that the ‘solution’ does not simply lie in making vacant properties available to those that are homeless. As I said towards the end of the piece, the issues that homelessness cause for the individuals and families that have to endure it does not stop with ‘simply’ being homeless. Much as the solutions for homelessness are myriad, the problems and long term problems are too.
      My intention is to cover how homelessness exposes those that suffer it to violence, how their physical and mental health is directly affected by the precarious nature of their lives and how, absurdly and cruelly, homelessness is being criminalised. These are just some of the life changing, dignity stealing affects of homelessness. This is before we consider what the wider implications for society are.
      I would like to continue this series. Now that I can sit upright, if only for an hour or so, I would like to discuss this with you and the team.
      I hope that you are doing well and that you and yours are keeping safe. Sorry I haven’t been in contact for a few days but I’m sure you understand.

      All the best,


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