Between 1 April and 30 September 2016, Local Authorities received 17,107 homelessness applications. This is a reduction of 554 (-3%) over the same period in the previous year (see Table 2 ).
Chart 1 shows that the number of homelessness applications over time has decreased beginning around Spring 2010, but this downward trend appears to be slowing down over the last couple of years. There are quarterly fluctuations, but this decrease is clearer when a five-quarter centered moving average is used.
Chart 1: Number of applications for homelessness assistance in Scotland, from April to June (Q2), 2002
This reduction in homelessness applications is likely to be the result of Housing Options work being undertaken by Local Authorities in Scotland. Over the past few years, Local Authorities have been developing services in which staff assist households to consider the range of options available to address their housing needs. As a consequence, some of the households who might previously have made a homelessness application may now have their housing needs met without first becoming homeless or being threatened with homelessness. Further information on the development of Housing Options services in Scottish Local Authorities is available in the annual homelessness statistics publication  .
Within the overall reduction of 3% over the same period last year, there are large variations between Local Authorities. Table 2 shows that comparing April to September 2016 with the same period one year ago, the number of homelessness applications was lower in 18 Local Authority areas, higher in 12 Local Authority areas and stayed the same in 2. The largest numerical reductions were in Edinburgh (-175 applications, -9%) and Glasgow City (-168 applications, -6%). The largest increases were in East Ayrshire (+62 applications, 26%) and Falkirk (+54 applications, +10%).
For April to September 2016, almost 9,400 homelessness applications (55%) had been through a Housing Options service prior to making a homelessness application. During the same period one year ago, 64% of homelessness applications had been through Housing Options first ( Table 1 ).
Reasons for homelessness
The underlying reasons for homelessness have remained very stable over time in Scotland, since April 2007. Table 3a and Table 3b show the position since July 2014. The proportions for each reason category have changed little since April 2007.
Of the 17,107 homelessness applications:
- 4,201 (25%) cited a reason of "asked to leave", a decrease of 415 relative to the equivalent period of the previous year; and
- 3,031 (18%) cited a reason of "non-violent dispute within the household and/or a relationship breakdown", an increase of 25 over the same period in the previous year.
Table 4a shows that, between 1 April and 30 September 2016, there were 9,827 (57% of the 17,107) homelessness applications where the Local Authority recorded a reason for failing to maintain the accommodation  . Applicants are given a list of possible reasons, and Local Authorities may select multiple reasons. For those 9,827 applicants with reasons for failing to maintain accommodation:
- 4,276 (44% of those completing this question) cited that it was not to do with the applicant's household, but a result of external circumstances (e.g. due to landlord selling property, fire, circumstances of other persons sharing previous property or harassment by others). This figure has increased by 167 from the same period in the previous year;
- 1,959 (20% of those completing this question) applicants cited lack of support from friends / family as a reason. This is an increase of 353 applications over the same period in the previous year;
- 1,547 (16% of those completing this question) cited financial difficulties / debt / unemployment as a reason. This is an increase of 87 applicants compared to the same period in the previous year; and
- 1,974 (20% of those completing this question) applicants cited mental health reasons and 831 (8%) applicants cited physical health reasons. Since the same period in the previous year, the number of applicants citing mental health as a possible reason has increased by 342 applicants (21%). The number of times physical health was cited by applicants has increased by 97 (13%).