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February 13, 2023

Over-representation of ethnic minorities experiencing homelessness across the UK

A new policy paper published by the Centre for Homelessness Impact calls for specific interventions to relieve and prevent homelessness among people from ethnic minorities to address stark inequalities among people who are assessed as homeless. The report, written by Nissa Finney, Professor of Human Geography at the University of St Andrews,  highlights how inequalities experienced by different ethnic groups across the UK contribute to higher rates of homelessness.

The policy paper shows that:

  • Black people are more than three times as likely to experience homelessness as white people in England and twice as likely in Scotland
  • People of Mixed Race are almost twice as likely to be affected by homelessness in England
  • All ethnic groups were more likely to experience housing disadvantage than White British groups
  • Bangladeshi, Black African, Black Other, and Pakistani groups are more than twice as likely as White British people to experience housing disadvantage 

The paper, which says there is a ‘void’ of robust data and causal evidence on ethnicity and homelessness, looks at interventions that might help to mitigate the homelessness ethnic penalty. 

After reviewing evidence of what works to address homelessness, it recommends seeking to remove barriers to receiving help by developing ethnic and locally specific interventions to generate informal social support for people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness within communities. It urges local authorities and accommodation providers to focus on systemic inequalities in housing provision and says governments should bring race equality approaches to homelessness programmes 

The provision of services in multiple languages other than English, the development of a Racial Equality Toolkit for homelessness practitioners, regular training in anti-racist practice, and the availability of alternative approaches to recovery are also recommended if ethnic minority over-representation in homelessness is to be appropriately addressed. 

Dr Ligia Teixeira, CEO of the Centre for Homelessness Impact, said: 

‘It is deeply troubling that there is such significant over-representation of people from ethnic minorities among individuals experiencing homelessness. This overrepresentation, has implications for policy, yet this dimension of homelessness has received little attention from policy-makers.  
‘The evidence also points to differences between ethnic groups of the homeless population in terms of vulnerabilities and poorer experiences with services. This suggests that efforts to end homelessness in the UK must address the range of issues that result from racial inequity. 
‘To maximise effectiveness, it is imperative that policies and programmes explicitly consider race as a factor, and be subject to robust evaluation. Only by targeting our efforts even better, and investing in reliable evidence, can we accelerate progress towards a future without homelessness in the UK.’

 Prof Nissa Finney, the paper’s author, said:

‘Ethnic inequalities in homelessness are stark and it’s clear from this report that there is regional variation that will require local monitoring and interventions. We can learn from elsewhere that ethnic and locally specific services can be effective in supporting ethnic minority people experiencing homelessness, and reducing inequalities.
‘However, there’s also a need to think about ethnic inequalities in homelessness in connection with well-evidenced inequalities in other areas of life, such as employment, education and health. Understanding the role of racism is key to any actions to combat the shocking over-representation of ethnic minorities amongst those experiencing homelessness in Britain.’

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