The postal paradox: how having no address keeps people homeless
A fixed postal address is vital for homeless people to access and engage with the services they need. However, being homeless means many people won’t have access to a fixed postal address. This leaves homeless people trapped in a catch-22 situation where they can’t access support for being homeless because of the fact that they’re homeless.
This research looks at the impact of not having a fixed postal address. It draws on interviews with homeless people and day centre staff, surveys of local Citizens Advice staff and MPs, and conversations with national homeless charities. The findings show that having no fixed postal address prevents people from accessing the support they need in 2 ways:
1. Homeless people are likely to miss important correspondence. Many letters sent to homeless people - such as those from the Jobcentre, courts and healthcare services - contain dates for important appointments. Missing the letter is likely to mean missing the appointment, and this can have serious consequences. These include benefit sanctions, arrest warrants, dropping down waiting lists and even missing out on housing.
2. Homeless people are excluded from accessing the services they need. A number of essential services require users to provide an address in order to access them. The most notable problem is not being able to open a bank account, which significantly reduces homeless people’s ability to receive benefits and seek employment.
In the report we set out 2 straightforward solutions to the problem which, we believe, can be achieved within the existing postal system.