What we know about What Works

What do we know about what works to support people who are experiencing, or are at risk of homelessness?
The best way to end homelessness is by preventing it from occurring in the first place by providing support for people at critical points in their lives. This could be by offering people financial support so that they can afford their rent, or referring them to programmes that can offer support when they are leaving prison or hospital.

We know that homelessness is influenced by a variety of interacting factors like housing affordability, the strength of the health and welfare safety net, and the resilience of our families and communities.
We also know that in order to prevent recurring homelessness, services should be tailored to consider individual needs and offer high levels of support where appropriate, by providing the right support in the right way.

There is a lot that we don’t yet know about the solutions to homelessness, but there are things we do know that we can act on. We continue to work to fill the gaps in our knowledge and listen to what the evidence tells us about what works.
Financial support can prevent repeat homelessness

Accommodation that can be paid for by people on a low income, is central to preventing homelessness and helping people rebuild their lives in stable, long term accommodation. The evidence tells us that families who received financial assistance in the form of housing subsidies experienced less than half as many episodes of homelessness than people who didn’t.

Find out more about affordable housing in our "Tenancy Insecurity in the Private Rented Sector" policy paper.

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Programmes that support people leaving prison or hospital can reduce homelessness

Without effective support, many people leaving prison or mental health units may be at risk of homelessness upon discharge from the institution. Existing evidence highlights that coordinating discharge with accommodation and holistic services can be effective at reducing homelessness, maintaining engagement with services and improving outcomes.

Explore this topic in more detail in our "Evidence Note on Institutional Discharge", the evidence review on Discharge.

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Extending support for young adults leaving social care improves outcomes

Young people leaving care are more likely to experience homelessness because they lack the social or economic safety net which many people have from their birth families. Programmes that allow young people leaving care to remain in contact with their carers is useful to helping them maintain supportive relationships. The evidence tells us that young people who remained with their carers past the age of 18 were more likely to be in employment, education, or training (EET) and have better outcomes than young people who did not.

Find out more about how programmes that support young people leaving care can play in reducing homelessness in our "Children’s Social Care" policy paper.

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Providing access to alternative secure accommodation is important for people leaving unsafe environments

Survivors of domestic abuse and LGBTQ+ people are at a higher risk of experiencing homelessness. Young people who feel uncomfortable to be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity may leave their family home before they might otherwise have done so, be forced to leave or be at risk of violence. The evidence tells us that better access to alternative safe accommodation and rapid rehousing can help to reduce homelessness for people leaving abusive relationships when provided alongside the right support.

Learn more about the role of stigma and discrimination in homelessness by reading the "Sexuality, gender identity and homelessness" and "Women, homeless and violence: what works?" policy papers.

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Stable housing with support can work for people with long histories of homelessness

People with long term histories of homelessness are more likely to avoid further homelessness if they are given accommodation with high levels of support in environments where there will be no behavioural expectation placed on them, this is also known as Housing First. Our research shows that providing housing and only the most basic level of support may harm individuals more than it can help them.

Please see the Evidence Review on Accommodation for further information.

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Supporting people with their healthcare needs can help improve housing stability

The evidence tells us that people experiencing homelessness are at much greater risk of experiencing poor physical or mental health than the general population. Improving access to health and social care is important to remove barriers to people needing care. Evidence suggests that the right healthcare can be effective in improving housing and health outcomes for people experiencing homelessness.

Find out more in our Evidence Notes on Mental health and Drugs and Alcohol or in our "Improving access to health and social care" report.

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Support services need to consider individual needs to be most effective

Support works better when it is tailored to suit the needs of individuals, gives people choice and autonomy over their own care and is integrated and coordinated across different services. The evidence emphasises the importance of trauma-informed and psychologically-informed environments to improve engagement and help build safe and trusting environments. People with experiences of homelessness can help improve the design of services and/or be involved in the delivery of services.

Find out more in the "Improving access to health and social care review" of evidence.

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The current landscape of evidence surrounding homelessness

There is a substantial evidence base for homelessness interventions, with a total of 668 evaluations to learn from. So far we know that most of the evidence on homelessness comes from the USA and that there are still crucial gaps in the evidence base. The quality of evidence that has been gathered so far is mixed and most of the studies focus on health and housing outcomes rather than employment, income and costs. However, the evidence base is growing at an increasing rate. You can find out more by exploring our intervention tool.

Ending homelessness for good is within our reach

To break the cycle of homelessness, we need to start with the end goal in mind. Our path to get there is clearly laid out in our strategy.

Read our strategy
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