In the 6 months between 1 April and 30 September 2017, local authorities received 17,797 homelessness applications, an increase of 330 (2%) over the same period in the previous year (see Table 2 ).  However when looking over the whole of the last 12 months, there has been a smaller 0.3% (118 applications) annual increase from 34,746 applications in the 12 months to end September 2016 to 34,864 applications in the 12 months to end September 2017 ( Table 1).
Chart 1 shows that the number of homelessness applications over time has decreased beginning around Spring 2010. This downward trend has slowed down over the last couple of years and has leveled out since 2015. There are quarterly fluctuations, but this trend is clearer when looking at the five-quarter centred moving average.
Chart 1: Number of applications for homelessness assistance in Scotland, by quarter, from April 2002 to September 2017
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 - Housing Options  . 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. This is likely to have contributed to an overall downward trend in the number of homelessness applications since 2010.  The more recent leveling out of homelessness applications (since 2015) suggests that the effect of Housing Options on decreasing homelessness application numbers may have reached a plateau.
For April to September 2017, almost 9,700 homelessness applications (54%) had been through a Housing Options service prior to making a homelessness application. During the same period in 2016, 60% of homelessness applications had been through Housing Options first ( Table 1 ). This decreasing trend is also evident when looking at annual change. In the 12 months to end September 2017, 56% of applications had been through a Housing Options service first, compared to 62% during the same period in 2016.
When comparing the 12 months to end September 2017 with the previous 12 months to end September 2016, there has been a small 0.3% increase in the number of homelessness applications to local authorities; however trends over time have varied between local authorities. Table 2 shows that when comparing these two time periods, the number of homelessness applications fell in 14 (44% of) local authority areas and increased in 18 (56% of) local authority areas. The largest numerical reductions were in Glasgow (-447 applications, -8%) and Edinburgh (-333 applications, -9%). The largest increases were in Aberdeen city (407 applications, 32%) and Dumfries and Galloway (172 applications, 24%).
Reasons for homelessness
Of the 17,797 homelessness applications received in the 6 months period between April and September 2017:
- The most common reason cited was “asked to leave” – which accounted for a total of 4,527 (25%) applications, an increase of 228 applications (5%) relative to the equivalent period of the previous year;
- The second 3,120 most common reason cited was “non-violent dispute within the household and/or a relationship breakdown” – which accounted for a total of 3,120 (18%) applications, a slight increase of 39 (1%) compared to the same period in the previous year.
Table 4a shows that, in the 6 months between 1 April and 30 September 2017, there were 11,600 (65% of the 17,797) 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. A greater proportion of applications had a reason for failing to maintain accommodation between April and September 2017 (65%) compared to the same period in 2016 (60%).
Of the 11,600 applicants with reasons for failing to maintain accommodation:
- 4,900 (42% 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 298 (6%) from the same period in the previous year;
- 2,507 (22% of those completing this question) applicants cited lack of support from friends / family as a reason. This is an increase of 500 applications (25%) over the same period in the previous year;
- 2,057 (18% of those completing this question) cited financial difficulties / debt / unemployment as a reason. This is an increase of 445 applicants (28%) compared to the same period in the previous year; and
- 2,550 (22% of those completing this question) applicants cited mental health reasons and 1,026 (9%) 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 507 applicants (25%). The number of times physical health was cited by applicants has increased by 162 (19%).