Understanding the experiences of homelessness

Written by David Rowlands

Let’s be honest, who doesn’t support the Welsh Governments goal of seeking to make homelessness rare, brief and unrepeated? It has universal backing. 

There may be healthy debate over how this can be achieved, but what is clear is that the needs and circumstances of all citizens in Wales need to be considered to successfully end homelessness.  

Why is this important? We know around 1 in 4 young people who experience homelessness are from the LGBTQ+ community, while a project evaluation by Crisis identified 39% of the people they supported were disabled. This may just be the tip of the iceberg with hidden homelessness also high amongst Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, refugees, and disabled people whose homes may not be safe.  

Can we really end homelessness if we don’t better understand the experiences and needs of these communities? Our recent research highlights that there is work to do. 

To support the Welsh Government’s review of homelessness legislation, Tai Pawb worked with research partners to understand people’s experiences and interactions with services. While there were nuances amongst the different groups, consistent themes did emerge for people with protected characteristics including: 

  • The need to be better served by homelessness services and the laws that underpin them. 
  • Facing additional barriers in “the system” in getting their situations understood or resolved. 
  • A lack of flexibility in the law and services to manage the nuances associated with some of the lives of the people we spoke with.  
  • A lack of suitable homes, including Temporary Accommodation.  
  • Difficulties self-advocating and the need for external bodies to help resolve their situation. 

One participant put it, “if someone had listened and looked at the bigger picture, perhaps a better understanding would have resulted in a quicker process.” Sadly, this could have applied to many of the people we spoke with. Housing Teams across local authorities would benefit from increased capacity to help build on existing person-centred approaches. 

The full report is available here and the Welsh Government are continuing work on this review, including with the work of an expert panel. There will be further opportunities to contribute to these conversations with a White Paper later in the year.  

We’ll continue to engage in this process to ensure the circumstances and needs of all communities in Wales are considered – and challenge you to do the same.