What is living on the streets like?

What is living on the streets like? 
Living on the streets is very hard and you will be cold, hungry and in danger from other people. Being on the streets when you are young is dangerous. Some of the problems you may face could be:

  • nowhere safe to sleep or rest
  • no food or clean water
  • being at risk from dangerous or abusive people
  • not being able to wash yourself or your clothes
  • getting sick
  • no money
  • being attacked or having your belongings stolen from you
  • feeling lonely.



The cost to UK society of poverty and the many other social problems with which it is related is huge. While it is not easy to quantify all the consequences of poverty, here are some of the annual costs directly or indirectly connected to child poverty, as an example:

  • £3 billion spent on children by local authority services;
  • more than £500 million to support homeless families with children;
  • around £300 million on free school dinners;
  • around £500 million on primary health care for deprived children;
  • knock-on costs in lost taxes and extra benefits claimed by adults with poor job prospects, linked to educational failure at school.



Low income is just one indicator of poverty. A fuller picture looks at all resources, not only income. This can include access to decent housing, community amenities and social networks, and assets, i.e. what people own. Somebody who lacks these resources can be said to be in poverty in a wider sense.

In the UK, many people live in deprived communities, ones in which there are fewer jobs and people’s resources and hopes are low. This concentration of poverty can bring additional disadvantages. The phrase ‘social exclusion’ is used to describe the multiple social problems – for example, poor health, alcohol and drug abuse, high rates of crime victimisation and perpetration, limited ambitions and expectations, and high rates of family breakdown and reformation – these are often associated with living in a seriously disadvantaged area.



Poverty can be defined and measured in various ways. The most commonly used approach is relative income poverty. Each household’s income, adjusted for family size, is compared to median income. (The median is the ‘middle’ income: half the population have more than the median and half have less.) Those with less than 60 per cent of median income are classified as poor. This ‘poverty line’ is the agreed international measure used throughout the European Union.

By this measure, in 2007–08:

  • 23 per cent of the UK population was in poverty – 13.5 million people;
  • 31 per cent of children were in families in poverty – 4 million children;
  • 18 per cent of pensioners were in poverty – 2 million people.

In 2007–08, a couple without children was considered to be poor if their weekly income after rent or mortgage was less than £199. The weekly poverty line for a couple with two children was £322 and for a single pensioner, £115.