'Educated underclass' among the homeless

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The Independent Online

Figures for homelessness conceal an educated underclass where nearly 10 per cent are graduates, according to research by the charity Crisis.

The charity found that nearly half of homeless people had academic qualifications, after surveying hostels in five cities. A quarter of the 150 people interviewed had GCSEs, 8 per cent had A-levels, and 5 per cent had professional qualifications. One in 12 of the people questioned in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Canterbury and Portsmouth had degrees.

Shaks Ghosh, the chief executive of Crisis, said the findings showed homelessness was a complex problem that affected all social classes.

"Education is no protection against homelessness. If there are other problems, like family meltdown, it doesn't make a difference.

"Most have dependency issues, whether it be drink, drugs or mental health issues. Until we tackle that raft of problems we can only get so far," she said.

Ms Ghosh said Britain had 400,000 "hidden" homeless living in hostels, B&Bs, squats and on friends' floors, and called for a better-integrated programme of help to get them into jobs.

One graduate who took part in the survey said he had tried to find work but failed because he did not have a permanent address.

Jason, 31, from Southampton, who trained as a chef after graduating from Bath University, said: "Prospective employers may like my CV, but the minute they see I'm living in a hostel, they lose interest."

A Crisis spokeswoman said the number of homeless people with a degree had surprised researchers, although they had expected that many would have some kind of educational attainment.

"It illustrates the tragedy that there are so many talented and people whose potential is going to waste because of the horrible experience of homelessness," she said.

The National Union of Students said the findings proved wrong the assumption that a degree provided an automatic fast track to high salaries and career success.

"Whilst a degree and a university education are wonderful things, these new figures dispel the myth that all graduates go on to earn enormous salaries and live happily ever after," said the NUS national president, Mandy Telford.

"Many graduates will not walk into high-flying jobs and some will struggle to manage after graduation."