As part of the Picture the Change programme, this qualitative research project is based on 29 in-depth interviews with clients using homelessness services in Brighton during August and September 2014.
Picture the Change: repeat homelessness in Brighton
Based on 29 in-depth interviews with clients using homeless services in Brighton during August and September 2014, key findings include:
- Causes of homelessness and repeat homelessness are divided into two main areas:
- structural which included poor and unsuitable housing, insecurity in the private rented sector, transitioning/leaving accommodation or institutions (especially prison) and loss of employment; and
- personal reasons which included mental health issues, experience of trauma, relationship breakdown, and fleeing domestic violence or abuse.
- There is a strong pull for people coming and returning to Brighton because they consider the city to be a place of diversity and acceptance. Many people had happy memories of Brighton, which stemmed from childhood or previous relationships. While people were positive about the homelessness services available in Brighton, they were more likely to talk about how much they liked the town itself rather than its services.
- Many people faced multiple disadvantages, including mental and physical health issues, drug and alcohol misuse and experience of violence and abuse. Living on the streets often exacerbated these needs. While some people described visibly sleeping out at night, many participants - especially women - described staying out of sight and moving around because they felt vulnerable. Many had been or knew someone who had been a victim of violence and/or abuse, including robbery, intimidation and rape.
- There were mixed experiences of the Brighton and Hove Integrated Support Pathway. Some people experienced barriers when they tried to enter the Pathway and there could sometimes be a gap in the length of time between approaching the local authority for homelessness assistance and accessing accommodation. Participants talked about the positive role that outreach services and day centres played in supporting them to access the Pathway. Individual support workers were also mentioned as being especially important in helping them to navigate the Pathway.
- There were particular issues associated with having low level support needs. Some participants spoke about the difficulties associated with living in hostel accommodation while trying to work, or if they were recovering from issues with alcohol or substance misuse. Other people spoke about the negative impact that living in hostel accommodation had on their health and wellbeing.
- Barriers also existed around exiting the Pathway. People found it difficult to access social or private rented accommodation. The lack of social housing in Brighton meant that for most people the only option was the private rented sector.
- However, high rents, a lack of landlords willing to rent to people on Housing Benefit and difficulties accessing rent deposit or bond schemes made it difficult for people to move on from supported accommodation in the PRS.
- Although this finding clearly reflected the experience of participants, it should be noted that the effect of the cost of housing in Brighton is especially acute. Recent data provided by Centre for Cities suggests that Brighton is the fourth most expensive place to buy a home in the UK, with house costs 10.9 times the city’s average salary.
- There was a lack of understanding about local connection policies in Brighton. Many people travelled back to Brighton on the basis that they had previously held a local connection, only to find out that they were no longer eligible.
- Some of those who had been helped to relocate to a new area, either by the local authority or support services, had returned to Brighton because they had been unable to access the support they needed there. For others, the pull of Brighton meant that they were prepared to remain homeless if this meant remaining local to the area.
Support needs and access to support varied. Mental health issues were commonly spoken about, but access to mental health services was frequently cited as difficult by participants. Day centres and outreach teams provided important services for people who were rough sleeping. These included sexual health clinics, opticians, doctors, and welfare benefits advice, as well as advocacy to access accommodation.