Homelessness

Having a settled home plays an important role in ensuring wellbeing. Good housing (with appropriate support if necessary) can help people to stay healthy, hold down a job, maintain relationships, participate in community activities and achieve a decent standard of living.

Conversely, homelessness and insecure living arrangements can both cause and perpetuate many health problems. A 2014 national survey of homeless people by Homeless Link discovered that:

  • 73% reported physical health problems (41% said that this was a long term problem);
  • 80% reported some form of mental health issue and 45% had been diagnosed with a mental health problem;
  • 39% said that they take drugs or are recovering from a drug problem while 27% have or are suffering from an alcohol problem;
  • 35% had been to Accident and Emergency and 26% had been admitted to hospital over the past six months.;
  • 77% of homeless people smoke and 35% do not eat at least two meals a day.

Homelessness also has an adverse effect on children; they are more likely to suffer from bullying, unhappiness and stigmatisation. Around half of the homeless families in a study conducted by Shelter said that their children were frightened, insecure or worried about the future as a result of their homelessness. Homeless children are also less likely to attend school and achieve educationally.

The local picture

The number of people in Calderdale who consider themselves to be homeless is not known, as many are sofa surfing amongst friends and relatives and do not approach the Council for help directly. In given circumstances the Council must carry out a homelessness investigation and issue a homelessness decision. The Council reports on such cases of ‘Statutory Homelessness’ to Government on a quarterly basis.

This table sets out the number of statutory homelessness investigations completed over the past five years and the number of households accepted as statutorily homeless.

Homelessness presentations and Homelessness acceptances from 2010/11 to 2014/15

Year Homelessness Presentations Homelessness Acceptances
2010/11 104 60
2011/12 99 51
2012/13 146 60
2013/14 139 67
2014/15 135 74

Source: Calderdale Council, 2015.

The number of households in Calderdale accepted as statutorily homeless had been decreasing steadily for several years until 2012, but over the past three years the local picture has reflected the rising national trend, and the numbers are once again on the increase. The most common reason for the loss of the last settled home, amongst those accepted as homeless by Calderdale Council, is domestic violence and this is the picture regardless of household type.

There is often a misconception that all households accepted as homeless are families with children. In Calderdale, however, this is not the case and in recent years at least 49% of homelessness acceptances have been in respect of single people, couples without children or adult siblings.

Current provision

For the past ten years, the emphasis of work undertaken by Calderdale Council and its partners has changed from responding to homelessness to homelessness prevention. This approach has limited the number of people in temporary accommodation at any one time to less than 25, and is reducing the length of time that homeless households stay in temporary accommodation.

Over the past year, the Council and its partners have responded to the issue of youth homelessness by implementing a number of new initiatives. A Vulnerable Young Person’s Panel has been established. This meets weekly and considers the support that can be offered to young people who are homeless or at very real risk of homelessness. A dedicated Young Person’s Housing Support Team has been established within the Temporary Accommodation and Support Service, and has introduced working arrangements that are responsive to young people’s needs. The number of Foyer units available in the Borough has been increased and Sanctuary Housing Association, working in partnership with the Council, has opened a small supported accommodation project for young homeless people with higher level needs.

It has also been possible to create opportunities for young people preparing to leave care to try out independent living. This initiative should help to reduce the incidence of tenancy failure amongst young care leavers.

User views

A number of case studies are available in the Calderdale Homelessness Strategy 2015-2020 , illustrating the variety of issues that homeless people in Calderdale present with, and the help they have received from various services .

Unmet needs

The most difficult group to help find and keep settled accommodation is those with multiple and complex needs. Typically this includes homeless adults with a combination of substance misuse issues, mental health difficulties and a history of offending behaviour. All agencies working to address homelessness receive several approaches each year in respect of such clients, and as inevitably the individuals concerned have a history of failed tenancies, they have usually exhausted virtually every accommodation option.

Success is being achieved following the launch of the West Yorkshire Finding independence (Wy-Fi) scheme in 2014. This is a Big Lottery funded project that aims to help adults with complex needs to better manage their lives, by ensuring that the services they need are more tailored and better connected to each other. The Wy- Fi delivery partner in Calderdale is Foundation which is able to work intensively with 18 clients a year. Foundation has already been successful in helping a number of very chaotic clients with a long history of tenancy failure to find and keep accommodation as well as helping them address their other issues.

There is no direct access hostel provision in Calderdale other than the Women’s Refuge. This means that single people who approach the Council as homeless on the day, and to whom no statutory duty is owed, usually have to be referred to hostels in neighbouring Boroughs. This option is often refused by the people concerned and who are subsequently more likely to sleep rough. Some funding has been obtained by way of the West Yorkshire Single Homelessness Grant to commission a service that will incorporate an emergency accommodation provision for rough sleepers and an assertive outreach service for rough sleepers and people who are sofa surfing.

Each year a number of migrants from the European Union approach the Council for help because they are at risk of homelessness. Many are helped into alternative accommodation, but a small but growing number are ineligible for homelessness assistance or social housing and are also not able to receive Housing Benefit. The risk of rough sleeping is inevitably very high and there are particular challenges when the household includes children.

Projected future need

Changes introduced as part of the Government’s Welfare Reform programme are predicted to have a negative impact on homelessness both nationally and locally. The rolling out of Universal Credit and resultant requirement that tenants make rent payments themselves is likely to present considerable difficulty for tenants who are used to their rent being paid directly to their landlord. This, combined with the requirement for all households to make a contribution towards Council Tax, means that rent arrears are predicted to increase, and tenants who are unable to quickly develop budgeting and money management skills, could face re-possession proceedings with a resulting rise in homelessness presentations.

Proposed changes to the amount of housing benefit (or the housing element of Universal Credit) that will be paid in respect of new social housing tenancies after April 2016 are likely to make it difficult for single people under the age of 35 to obtain social housing. New tenants of supported accommodation will face particular difficulties as the rents in such schemes are usually much higher than the Local housing allowance level.

Key considerations linked to the known evidence base (what works?)

A review of homelessness trends in Calderdale was circulated to a wide range of partners in the winter of 2013, and in February 2014 a very well attended stakeholder event focussed on the key issues emerging. Four key objectives identified were:

  1. Mitigate the impact of welfare reform;
  2. Develop appropriate services and an accommodation pathway to prevent youth homelessness;
  3. Improve outcomes for homeless people with chaotic lifestyles;
  4. Identify the risks to homelessness amongst older people and the potential for developing preventative actions.

In response, the  Calderdale Homelessness Strategy 2015-2020 sets out an Action Plan around these, which will be reviewed annually.

References and further information

Author

Gillian West, Homelessness Services Manager, Housing, Environment and Renewal, Calderdale Council.

21 January 2016.