Identifying Homelessness Risk Factors
37. It is worth considering the main features that create homelessness risk to enable a more concerted understanding of what can be done to tackle it and why homelessness prevention is such a cross cutting issue, calling for partnership and multi-disciplinary working. The undernoted factors are indicators of homelessness risk, particularly when they become interrelated. This means that certain personal factors and/or the absence of protective factors could suggest increased vulnerability to homelessness, particularly where there is also housing instability. The following lists are examples, but not definitive lists of indicative risk factors.
38. Indicators of homelessness risk - personal factors:
- Lack of self-care, coping or employability skills;
- History of institutional living, e.g. looked after children, care leavers, long term nursing or social care, periods in prison or service in the Armed Forces;
- Domestic or sexual abuse in the household or as a child;
- As a child, missing school, running away from home or residential care, moving house frequently and/or having a drug, solvent or alcohol problem;
- Relationship breakdowns including between partners and between parents and their children;
- Social isolation;
- Rape or sexual assault as a child or an adult;
- Learning disabilities, literacy and numeracy difficulties;
- Physical disabilities;
- Substance misuse issues;
- Physical or mental health problems - especially if health deteriorating;
- Death or incapacity of a carer;
- History of anti-social or offending behaviour;
- Debt issues; and
- Household with no rights to public assistance losing funding or employment.
39. Indicators of homelessness risk - housing instability:
- Previous homelessness or part of a homeless family as a child;
- Rent or mortgage arrears;
- Impending eviction or repossession action;
- Tenure insecurity; staying care of; tied tenancy with prospect of unemployment, e.g. Armed Services accommodation;
- Living in accommodation unsuitable for adapting to meet particular needs;
- History of/and current neighbour complaints; and
- Experiencing harassment/feeling unsafe in the area they live.
40. Indicators of homelessness risk - resilience/protective factors, which can mitigate against the risks:
- Supportive friends or family;
- Strong social networks;
- Appropriate support services;
- House owned outright or positive equity;
- Savings or access to financial help;
- Competent advice and advocacy;
- In stable employment or with employable skills;
- Personal empowerment;
- Self-esteem and confidence; and
- Positive attitudes.
41. Local authorities will wish to explore the most effective means of raising awareness of homelessness risk factors and the resilience/protective factors that can make a difference within relevant council services and within partner agencies, particularly as certain services, e.g. health, education and social work services may be best placed to note and respond to risks before crisis escalates. This is important in the context of prioritising prevention activity, particularly for high risk groups.
A part of the HPIF , East Dunbartonshire Council has developed a web based diagnostic tool to identify potential risk factors with links to downloadable referral forms between services. Developed as a project for the Homelessness Prevention Innovation Fund, the tool has only recently gone live and evaluation of outcomes is as yet not achievable. However, feedback from staff at the local NHS Board indicates their satisfaction with the revised arrangements and a representative noted that they anticipate improved joint working and earlier intervention by local health services as a result. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
42. Awareness raising and reducing stigma and prejudice should already be a policy aim of local authorities when tackling homelessness. By developing knowledge and skills within other parts of the local services landscape and amongst local citizens, this is more likely to be achieved. Use of the risk based approach offers increased opportunities to dispel some myths about homelessness and helps to illustrate that homelessness can happen to anyone. Providing a solid evidence base of the local features of homelessness risk can be an important aspect when engaging with communities and tenants organisations and can also assist when trying to resettle people who have experienced homelessness.
43. Local authorities will already be using feedback from service users to inform how they continuously improve their homelessness services. Additionally, they should make use of feedback from homeless service users about the interventions, services and assistance that from the service user perspective, could have prevented them from becoming homeless. Glasgow Homelessness Network ( GHN) used feedback from service users to report that many homeless people take personal responsibility for their homelessness, even when their case histories suggest that a range of structural and other challenges were likely contributors. This suggests that relevant partners could utilise the feedback too. The Scottish Government funds and GHN currently hosts the national co-ordinator responsible for the development of the Scottish Homelessness Involvement and Empowerment Network ( SHIEN). A Toolkit has been developed to assist local services in improving service user involvement techniques.