Is it possible to eradicate homelessness?

29 January 2009

A major new £692,000 research initiative launches today with the aim of informing government policy and practice and finding solutions to bring vulnerable homeless people in from the margins of our society. The initiative intends to develop a greater understanding of homeless people who have to cope with multiple problems in their lives, such as drug or alcohol dependencies, severe mental health problems and institutional experiences, such as prison or long term hospital stays.

Homeless Link, the national umbrella organisation for frontline homelessness charities, together with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG), Tenants Services Authority (TSA), National Institute of Mental Health in England (NIMHE) and Department of Health led the development of this significant research programme. The initiative is funding four projects to provide a solid evidence base for further policy and practice development.

Speaking on behalf of the partnership, Julia Unwin, Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said, "All the projects announced today will provide important new evidence about why vulnerable people with a wide variety of problems become homeless and how to prevent this in the future. This important programme of research will significantly expand our knowledge about a group of individuals who, because of their complex needs, often fall between the gaps of existing services."

Jenny Edwards, Chief Executive of Homeless Link also said, "We are particularly pleased that the research has close links with voluntary sector providers so that findings can be more easily disseminated to policy, practice and academic audiences. Addressing the needs of some of the most disadvantaged people in our society is key to preventing homelessness and achieving the Government's goal of ending rough sleeping by 2012. We look forward to working with the grant holders as their work develops."

Director of CLGs Housing Strategy and Support Directorate, Terrie Alafat, commented, "CLG is pleased to contribute to this unique partnership with the academic community, third sector organisations and other government agencies. Our strategy in tackling homelessness has been informed by evidence at every stage, which has helped us to achieve reductions in both rough sleeping and statutory homelessness. This programme of high quality and policy relevant academic research will improve our understanding of the most complex forms of multiple exclusion homelessness and enable us to tackle it more effectively. We look forward to working with all the partners in the programme to advance knowledge and inform action on the most severe forms of social exclusion."

For further information contact

Homeless Link Press Office:

Department for Communities and Local Government:

Tenants Services Authority:

Joseph Rowntree Foundation:

  • Charlotte Morris, JRF Senior Media Relations Manager
    Telephone: 07800 615105 or 01904 615919 or 020 7278 9665

National Institute of Mental Health in England:

Project contacts:

  • Prof Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Centre for Housing Policy, University of York
    Telephone: 01904 321475
  • Dr Philip Brown, Salford Housing and Urban Studies Unit, University of Salford
    Telephone: 0161 295 3647
  • Prof Gillian Manthorpe, Director, Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King's College London
    Telephone: 07711 268798
  • Prof Peter Dwyer, The Graduate School, Business, Law and Social Sciences, Nottingham Trent University
    Telephone: 0115 848 8134

ESRC Press Office:

Notes for editors

  1. The research focuses on the subgroup of homeless people who are referred to as having 'multiple and or complex needs' (Pleace and Bretherton, 2007). These needs may be linked (but are not limited) to drug or alcohol dependencies; severe mental health problems; experiences of domestic violence, institutional experiences, particularly local authority care and prison); involvement in sex work; and participation in 'street culture' activities, such as begging, street drinking, and street-level drug dealing or migrant status. Research has demonstrated that such experiences intersect with homelessness (Fitzpatrick et al, 2000), but the scale and pattern of these intersections is not yet known and understood.
  2. Further details of projects:

    Prof Suzanne Fitzpatrick - Centre for Housing Policy, University of York

    Research designed to provide a robust account of the nature and patterns of Multiple Exclusion Homelessness across the UK.

    Dr Philip Brown - Salford Housing and Urban Studies Unit, University of Salford

    A case study approach on the relationship between social exclusion and homelessness.

    Prof Jill Manthorpe - Director, Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King's College London

    A study of those who work with homeless people with complex needs, with a particular focus on the advantages and disadvantages of how people in different jobs work together

    Prof Peter Dwyer - Business, Law and Social Sciences, Nottingham Trent University

    Research designed to show how far Multiple Exclusion Homelessness might be explained by inconsistencies between the priorities and agendas of homeless people and support agencies and the implications that this may have for policy and practice.

    The overarching aim of the research initiative is to ensure that policy and practice responses to multiple exclusion homelessness are better informed by robust evidence. The specific objectives of the programme are:

    • To develop a scientifically rigorous account of the relationship between homelessness and other dimensions of 'deep' social exclusion
    • To attain a theoretically-informed understanding of the causes of multiple exclusion homelessness, and
    • To shift thinking on multiple exclusion homelessness away from 'a priori' organisational categorisations, toward inductive analyses which start from the perspectives of people with relevant first-hand experience.

    Breakdown of funding provided by each partner organisation: ESRC £300,000, Department for Communities and Local Government £112,000, Housing Corporation £100,000, Joseph Rowntree Foundation £150,000, Department of Health £40,000. Development of the programme was also informed and supported by major homeless charities such as Shelter, Crisis, Broadway, Crash and Resource Information Service, led by Homeless Link. 

  3. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest funding agency for research, data resources and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It supports independent, high quality research which impacts on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2008/09 is £203 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes.
  4. Communities and Local Government sets policy on housing, local government, urban regeneration, planning, fire and rescue in England. CLG is working hard to create thriving, sustainable, vibrant communities that improve everyone's quality of life. Reducing homelessness and building more and better homes are key objectives for CLG.
  5. The a title="" target="_blank" href="">Tenant Services Authority (TSA) is the new Independent regulator for affordable housing, set to raise the standard of services through a well-governed sector that puts tenants first. It launched on 1 December 2008. Initially the Tenant Services Authority (the TSA) will operate under the legal powers of the Housing Corporation whilst it consults on the powers set out in the 2008 Housing and Regeneration Act. The TSA will be consulting with tenants across 5 million households and their landlords - including Local Authorities, ALMOs and housing associations - to develop the new standards framework and implement the new powers granted in the Homes and Regeneration Act. The TSA intends to 'switch on' its new powers for Housing Associations in December 2009 and across the Local Authority sector in April 2010.
  6. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is one of the largest social policy research and development charities in the UK. It supports a research and development programme that seeks to understand the causes of social difficulties and explore ways of overcoming them.
  7. Homeless Link is the national umbrella organisation for frontline homelessness agencies in England. We are inspired by the vision of our country free from homelessness.

    Our two goals are:

    • To raise standards in the services that support homeless people and tackle homelessness
    • To influence the development of policy, strategy and investment at all levels of government

Please contact Homeless Link for more information on rough sleeping, homelessness and social exclusion.