This report shines a light on the predicament facing single homeless adults, who often struggle to access mainstream housing options and so end up cycling in and out of low-quality temporary accommodation, which has impacts on their health and creates future costs for local services. This is the second phase of a three-year project on the lives of homeless people living in what we describe as unsupported temporary accommodation. These tenants will typically have neither a permanent tenancy status nor any structured support plan to move them into settled accommodation. Homeless households with limited access to local authority support, living in private shortstay accommodation such as private hostels, guest houses, B&Bs and houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).
Government data reports that there were 5,910 households placed in B&B accommodation by local authorities in Q3 2015 (DCLG 2015c).
There is, however, reason to believe that the number living in these circumstances is far higher. A report published in 1997 by Shelter estimated that there were 72,550 private tenants (self-referred or referred by another agency/authority) living in B&B accommodation, which is nearly 10 times the government’s count of local authority placements, which stood at 7,660 (Carter 1997).
Similarly, in 2008, New Philanthropy Capital published a report stating that approximately 260,000 people in England were living on the streets or in temporary accommodation, far above official estimates (Blake et al 2008).
Very little research has been done on the lives of these ‘hidden homeless’ and their paths into and out of these types of accommodation. The first stage of our research culminated in an IPPR report on life in unsupported temporary accommodation, Not home (Rose and Davies 2014). This report set out the context for the project, provided detail about the people who are participating in our research and about the complexities of the system, and set out why it is so vital to address the problems and impacts of unsupported temporary accommodation.
The Not home report highlighted a number of important findings:
• Unsupported temporary accommodation is housing a significant and unaccounted-for proportion of the national homeless population. Many tenants were found to be extremely vulnerable and living in conditions deemed unfit for anyone else.
• These tenants are receiving only the weakest protection – or no protection at all – from the existing homelessness ‘safety net’. They are frequently offered no statutory temporary or other accommodation, and no further support from statutory homeless services. There is no plan to support these people during their move into unsupported temporary accommodation, during their stay, or when they come to move out.
• Monitoring of where these tenants end up living, with whom and for how long is often very limited. This important data is fragmented, with the few statistics that currently aid in identifying the scale of the problem dispersed across a range of government and non-governmental databases.
• Tenants’ health, wellbeing, relationships and finances are seen to significantly deteriorate during their stay in unsupported temporary accommodation, frequently because of dire living conditions, stresses related to unsecure tenure, and chaotic social environments.
Building on this first phase, research in our second year has sought to identify what can be done in practical terms to improve the situation for these households at the local level. In this report, therefore, we provide an illustration of the typical experience of those who have participated in our research, and provide examples of how shifts to local authority policy, and local agency and service action, might help to increase the number and effectiveness of interventions into the lives of unsupported temporary accommodation residents.
It is structured around a tenant’s typical journey – or cycle – through unsupported temporary accommodation.