A Review of Single Homelessness in the UK 2000-2010 (2010)

This study provides an overview of the recent history, causes and policy responses to single homelessness, and assess how successful policies have been in tackling single homelessness. It also highlights what the government and others should be doing about the problem in the next decade.

Key findings

  • There is evidence that the single homeless population continues to grow more diverse. The proportion of men is falling, there is an over-representation of people with Black ethnic origins, and there is evidence of homelessness among recent migrants, particularly economic migrants from central and eastern European countries. There is limited evidence from England that although homelessness acceptances have fallen very sharply, some forms of single homelessness have not decreased and might even be increasing.
  • Considerable progress has been made in our understanding of the causation and nature of single homelessness, both in the UK and internationally. The causes of single homeless are complex, they are individual and relate to actions and decisions as well as to support needs, characteristics and experiences but they are also related to structural factors and the range and level of welfare and housing support available.
  • Homelessness policies have developed in different ways in each of the four nations of the UK but all have introduced significant changes to the homelessness legislation. The extension of priority need categories to include groups at particular risk of homelessness, such as young people, has been a positive development. However, many single homeless people still have to be deemed vulnerable in order to be considered in priority need under the legislation. In Scotland, priority need is to be phased out by 2012. Whilst the principle of this legislative change is welcomed, there remain significant challenges in meeting the 2012 target in the absence of sufficient appropriate accommodation.
  • There have been a number of other positive developments including:
  1. Local homelessness strategies – which encouraged local authorities to recognise the problem of single homelessness and to adopt a more strategic approach to tackling it;
  2. The Supporting People programme – which encouraged strategic working and the development of new and improved interventions and services. The removal of ring-fenced Supporting People grants might result in funds being diverted away from single homeless people;
  3. The Hostels Capital Improvement Programme and Places of Change – these programmes were seen to have achieved significant improvements in hostel provision and outcomes for service users, however, there is a lack of robust evidence on these programmes;
  4. Rough sleeping policies – governments in England, Scotland, and Wales continued to give rough sleeping a high priority and new interventions have been developed to tackle the needs of the most entrenched and marginalised rough sleepers. Although significant progress has been made in tackling rough sleeping, it remains a problem in parts of the UK and it appears to be a growing problem in Northern Ireland.
  • One of the most significant policy changes in the last decade has been the increased focus on the prevention of homelessness. Whilst this development has been welcomed, there are a number of concerns about how the policy operates in practice.
  • Preventative efforts are sometimes focused on those who are likely to be statutorily homeless rather than on single homeless people and, in some cases, local authority officers appear to be more concerned with reducing the number of homelessness acceptances than actually preventing homelessness. There is a need for improved practice in monitoring and evaluation of preventative interventions.


Jones, A. & Pleace, N. (2010) A Review of Single Homelessness in the UK: 2000-2010. London: Crisis.