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The lived experience of homelessness report (2018)

As part of the first phase of Crisis’ ‘Have Your Say’ consultation on how to end homelessness, Uscreates were asked to design workshops with people with lived experiences of homelessness (PLEH) that could be scaled across the UK, reaching a large number of PLEH in different locations. These sessions aimed to better understand the causes of homelessness and its effect on people’s lives, and find ideas to prevent and end it (from the perspective of those who have experienced it). After an initial workshop facilitated by Uscreates with PLEH, Crisis and Groundswell staff were trained to deliver a further 12 workshops at Crisis’ 12 Skylight centres and 21 workshops conducted by Groundswell at homelessness organisations across England, Scotland and Wales.

The findings in this report fed into the second phase of the consultation: a series of policy roundtables that will combine this insight with findings from policy workshops and written consultation responses to develop consensus around a set of ideas. The findings from the Skylight workshops have been analysed under the lens of the three homelessness priorities from a policy context: preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place; responding rapidly so problems don’t escalate; and ensuring long-term solutions are in place for those that need support with more complex issues.

 Key findings

  • We heard from people with lived experience that - increasingly - the benefits system is not generous enough and no longer provides a safety net. This means that people do not have enough money to save for periods of unemployment or unstable employment, high debt, sanctions (which can leave people without employment and housing benefits), a move to Universal Credit (which can take time), and increased rent. Ideas to address this included having an employer duty to cover any soon-to-be-redundant employee’s rent for a period after contract termination, and an end to zero-hour contracts.
  • The workshops highlighted how detrimental the removal of a support network can be, and participants commented that bereavement can often trigger a family breakdown as everyone in the family needs support, but no-one is able to provide it as they are all suffering. Additionally, relationship breakdowns due to domestic violence can bring about compound support needs for an individual (i.e. depression, anxiety, loss of self-esteem).
  • Emergency accommodation was a significant issue identified under the heading of housing and one that could benefit from rapid response, especially for people who suddenly become homeless. For example, the lack of emergency accommodation was highlighted as an issue by people who are leaving prison, who often have nowhere to go, personal problems to deal with, and little support to do so, and by people who have experienced relationship breakdown. Ideas to address this included family crisis emergency accommodation, to ensure families have a place to stay in the short-term as they seek to stabilise their housing situation, and easing access to shared housing for people who have been homeless, and increasing the sharing options available to people facing homelessness.
  • Services often take a ‘one size fits all’ approach to support, which can isolate those with complex needs. Each individual’s circumstance and support need is unique and cannot be remedied by the same solution. The form in which a person receives support or is required to access support (i.e. applying for Universal Credit online) can adversely affect their experience, too. Ideas to address this included live-in rehab for young people with comprehensive aftercare and housing, and the appointment of a specialist support worker in temporary accommodation who is available to offer full-time help to clients most likely to drop out of accommodation.
  • Services currently don’t ‘talk’ to each other, a situation that can cause contention and worsen outcomes for a person within the system. We heard from people regarding the fragmented nature of the system in terms of being signposted to support. Ideas to address this included an open access, 24-hour ‘one stop’ shop; having a key worker/peer mentor to guide people through the service and identify appropriate support, and initial assessment of need carried out by GP services.
  • Overall PLEH felt there is a lack of adequate and affordable housing. We heard from people with concerns about reporting inadequate housing because they are worried that their landlord will evict them, particularly as there is no legal recourse. People commented on the shortfalls of Universal Credit and how much difficulty it can cause with landlords, who often aren’t willing to wait weeks for rent/deposit
  • Solutions coming out of the workshops included: mediation services; Jobcentres offering more personalised solutions; providing accommodation to prisoners on release; increasing shared housing solutions; Peer support to help people to sustain tenancy when facing health challenges and eliminating barriers for people trying to access social housing.


Uscreates (2018) The lived experience of homelessness. London: Crisis and Groundswell.