Social care agencies have a major role to play in preventing homelessness after research published today found that nearly half of people who have been homeless have a combined history of substance misuse, institutional care and street activities like begging.
The study found that in complex cases it becomes impossible to separate the need for housing-related support from other support needs and that statutory services sometimes work in conflict with each other.
The findings come from the two-year multiple exclusion homelessness (MEH) research programme, a partnership between the Department for Communities and Local Government, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Homeless Link, among others.
Based upon a survey of 1,286 adults using homelessness, drug and other services, the report found that 98% had experience of being homeless; 70% had experience of drug and/or alcohol problems; 67% had a history of street activities, such as begging and shop lifting; 62% had spent time in prison, child care or other institutions; and 47% had a history of all four.
Mental health problems were also widely reported, with four in five reporting a history of anxiety or depression and over a third saying they had attempted suicide.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation round-up report, which drew together the findings of four separate studies, also found that before people with complex problems sought help from homelessness agencies, they had often been in contact with mental health, drug, criminal justice or social care services.
As such the report also called for greater recognition by drug, mental health and other services of the role they had to play in preventing homelessness and more preventative support at an earlier stage.
Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: “The lives of homeless people are often incredibly complex, so it is vital that the services they need reflect this. If we’re serious about preventing and tackling homelessness we need to target prevention and tackle the worrying level of distress faced by the homeless population.”
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