By Dr Jan Flaherty, Nuffield College

THINK ‘homeless’ and we tend to envisage people sleeping rough on the streets - particularly given the shocking news about those who have died in our city in recent weeks.

But many people, including families, are part of the ‘hidden homeless’, meaning they live in temporary accommodation or ‘sofa-surf’ between friends and family but with no home of their own.

High rents, welfare freezes and a lack of social housing are the backdrop to record numbers of people becoming homeless across Britain.

Oxford is top of the list as the most unaffordable place to live in the UK, where average house prices are nearly 11 times the annual gross average earnings in the city and monthly rents are some of the highest in the whole of the South East.

Many people on lower than average wages are struggling to get by and keep a roof over their heads and it doesn’t take much to find they can’t always cope if something goes wrong.

READ AGAIN: 'Stark reality' of homeless deaths in Oxford

While a lack of affordable housing is often behind many housing problems people may become homeless for numerous reasons such as losing their job, illness, debt or splitting up with a partner, among others.

They may then find themselves in the twilight world of the hidden homeless, moving in with family or friends or being placed in temporary accommodation if they qualify for council support.

For some the situation can become one in which options shut down and they end up living in their car or on the street when they have nowhere else to go.

Researchers at the Centre for Social Investigation at the University of Oxford are carrying out research looking at the range of homelessness experiences in Oxford.

We would like to talk to you if you are either currently homeless or have been homeless during adulthood and within the past three years.

We are interested in your personal experiences of homelessness and your thoughts on the support services you are using or may have used during this time.

By learning from people who have experienced homelessness, in whatever form that may have been, we can develop a better understanding of how people move in and out of different homelessness situations.

This will enable us to identify the different risk factors for people, as well as when and where help and support might be most effective.

We will share the knowledge we gain from listening to people’s experiences with policy makers in the hope that our results feed into informing policy-making at both a local and national level.

We are looking for volunteers, aged 18 and over, to talk to us about your experiences of being homeless in the city of Oxford.

You must have been homeless within the last three years, even if you are no longer homeless. You will receive a £10 gift voucher as a token of thanks for your time.

If you would like to take part or want to know more please contact Dr Elisabeth Garratt on 07955 500152 or or Dr Jan Flaherty on 07938 999374 or

Dr Jan Flaherty is a researcher at Nuffield College's Centre for Social Investigation