A home for all: Understanding migrant homelessness in Great Britain
We all need a home to build a life and to thrive, but for many people living in this country their immigration status holds them back in a situation which makes it impossible for them to move out of homelessness.
There are more than 170,000 families and individuals across Great Britain experiencing the worst forms of homelessness. A significant proportion are people who are originally from the outside the UK but substantial gaps in the data that is collected and published means that we do not know exactly how many of the people who are homeless in Britain today are migrants.
Today we launched scoping research looking to better understand the scale of migrant homelessness, their current experience and how frontline services are responding to this.
What did we learn?
The research found that the scale of homelessness had gone up in the last 12 months (7 out of 10 respondents), and over a third have had to expand their services to meet current need. Better data is critical if we are able to understand the scale of migrant homelessness and the reasons why people are becoming homeless or experiencing destitution.
People experiencing homelessness who are not originally from the UK are faced with many of the same support needs as the general homeless population, but these can be compounded by their specific experience, immigration status and associated entitlements. For those without recourse to public funds or who are not entitled to health and social care support, they are locked out of systems that can assist with complex trauma, mental health and substance misuse
The research also highlighted the barriers that make it harder for non-UK nationals to help prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place and resolve it quickly when it does happen. Challenges in accessing legal and immigration advice were identified as a significant barrier to supporting the migrant homeless population. Access to benefits that provide critical help to cover housing costs when people need it was found to be a significant barrier, affecting both those who lack entitlements as well as people who are excluded by mistake when incorrect decisions are made.
What structural barriers are people facing?
Restrictions that prevent people from getting welfare benefits creates a disconnect between income and the cost of housing meaning people are more vulnerable to homelessness and less likely to be able to move into stable housing. This creates a situation where homelessness services are having to prioritise supporting individuals into employment before addressing wider support needs they may have that would help them to sustain both employment and a tenancy. The desperation for employment and the precarious nature of housing situations makes people extremely vulnerable to exploitation.
These structural barriers are all underpinned by policy choices, which have led to a general lack of affordable housing across the private rented sector, restrictions on benefit entitlements and hostile environment measures.
No strategy to end homelessness can be credible or valid unless it includes solutions to address the specific barriers that affect people who are not originally from the UK. In our society what affects one of us affects all of us. Support to help prevent and end homelessness must be provided on the basis of need, and not on the basis of where someone was born. The Government must act to address the problems identified here and make sure that no one in Great Britain is at greater risk of becoming homeless because of their immigration status.
What are our next steps?
Based on the findings of the research Crisis’ next steps are:
· Commission in-depth research to estimate of the overall number of EEA nationals experiencing different forms of homelessness, including hidden homelessness, and to better understand the characteristics and support needs specific to this population. The research will also profile the experiences of EEA nationals to better understand and evidence the causes of homelessness amongst this group.
· Based on this new research, Crisis will develop national policy and practice solutions to address the issue of EEA migrant homelessness across Great Britain
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