Definition: Homeless

When a person does not have access to safe, secure or suitable housing. This can include residing in temporary accommodation, sofa surfing, rough sleeping, living in unsuitable housing for your needs, living in unsafe circumstances or living in overcrowded accommodation10The Legal Definitions of Homelessness.

The reasons for homelessness are complex and unique to each person but are, in Scotland, predominantly underpinned by poverty and the lack of social and affordable housing. Over the past ten years, the main reasons cited on homelessness applications made to councils in Scotland have been:

  • Asked to leave the accommodation
  • Family breakdown or dispute (non-violent)

Not everyone who is homeless sleeps rough. Not everyone who sleeps rough, begs. Not everyone who begs is homeless. We all deserve a safe place to live. We all have a unique story. We all need warmth and compassion11Homelessness in Scotland 2022-23. Reasons for homelessness and prior circumstances.

Click or hover over the boxes below to learn more about types of homelessness:


Temporary accommodation

This can include B&Bs, hostels, shared flats, supported housing or rapid access accommodation. Many of these accommodations have time restrictions on when people can enter, shared bathroom and kitchen facilities and zero tolerance for substance use.


Sofa surfing

Moving between people’s houses means a lack of stability, no permanent address and can cause stress as you may not have accommodation organised for the following day.   


Rough sleeping

In Scotland, the highest number of rough sleepers are in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Cramped House

Living in unsuitable housing for your needs

This could include someone who is disabled and unable to walk living in a flat with no ramp or elevator to ascend and descend. There are many reasons why housing could be unsuitable for a person's needs.


Living in unsafe circumstances

If your home is damp, has a lack of heating or hot water, an infestation of rodents or pests, unsuitable bathrooms or kitchens it could be considered unsafe for habitation.