The journey home

Introduction: The journey home

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Introduction: The journey home

What is unsupported temporary accommodation and why is it a problem?

People who are single and homeless face an uphill struggle to secure the support and services they need in order to move into a permanent and stable home. In the absence of these services, many find their only option is to move into unsupported temporary accommodation (UTA), a form of insecure housing which may consist of a private hostel, bed and breakfast, emergency or temporary accommodation, short-stay HMO (house in multiple occupation) or guesthouse.

Unsupported temporary accommodation frequently falls short of the government’s decent homes standard and often impacts negatively on the health and wellbeing of its tenants, many of whom are extremely vulnerable and face severe and multiple disadvantage. Inhabitants of UTA are typically licensed to live in the accommodation, are not tenants and are sometimes considered excluded occupiers. Therefore, residents have extremely limited rights within the properties. Often the physical condition of the accommodation creates an unsafe environment and the social conditions increase tenants’ exposure to risk. Therefore, a clear strategy is needed to do the following.

  1. Prevent people from moving into poor quality UTA in the first place.
  2. Provide immediate support when people have no choice but to move into UTA.
  3. Offer ongoing support to help people cope with living in UTA.
  4. Find more secure accommodation for tenants as quickly as possible.

The Journey Home project: key findings

Over the past three years, IPPR North and Justlife Foundation have been working to understand the lives of hidden single homeless households living in UTA in the North West and South East of England.

The experience of UTA tenants uncovered in our research has been both eye-opening and appalling, and represents just a snapshot of a problem of UTA that persists in most towns and cities across the country. We found concerning experiences ranging from poor physical conditions to unstable social environments. Our research has also highlighted the absence of a strong national policy framework to support the many hidden single homeless households living across the country.

Many local authorities are constrained by housing shortages and governed by rules that give priority to other types of household in particular need.1 As a result, single homeless households are often left with little support in securing a place in temporary accommodation and any support they may initially access falls away once they have been ‘placed’. They find themselves living without permanent tenancy status, in uninhabitable conditions, with few rights and no structured plan or help to move towards stable and secure accommodation.

Government data reports 6,520 households placed in bed and breakfast (B&B)2 accommodation in the second quarter of 2016 (DCLG 2016). Shelter found in 1997 that although the government data reported only 7,660 individuals living in B&B accommodation, the number was actually 72,550 – almost 10 times higher than the official figure (Carter 1997). We have no reason to believe that the numbers are not still worryingly high.

Stages in the journey through UTA

In order to affect change within a system that necessitates UTA as a housing option there needs to be a seismic shift in approach and investment. IPPR North and Justlife have identified four key stages of a person’s journey through UTA and have sought to develop a series of local measures to be adopted by local stakeholders – local authorities, voluntary sector organisations, and other connected parties – in order to begin shifting the current approach to UTA and to encourage interventions designed to break the cycle that sees marginalised individuals drifting through UTA.

The four key stages, identified by our research, experienced by individuals living in UTA are illustrated in figure 1.1.

Figure 1.1

A typical journey: the unsupported temporary accommodation (UTA) cycle

Source: Rose et al 2016

The detailed context and challenges facing tenants living in this kind of accommodation, as well as a series of recommendations aimed at changing the systems these tenants must navigate, are presented in the project’s first two reports: Not home: The lives of hidden homeless households in unsupported temporary accommodation in England (Rose and Davies 2014) and Nowhere fast: The journey in and out of unsupported temporary accommodation (Rose et al 2016). Both are available on IPPR’s website.3

About this report and project outputs

This is the third and final publication from our three-year research project.

The purpose of the report is to summarise our research findings and provide recommendations. It highlights the problems found within UTA and how these experiences present significant barriers to single homeless households ultimately seeking permanent accommodation and independent living. Our recommendations then demonstrate the ways in which current practice can and should be reformed to improve the experiences of people living in UTA and how they can be supported to move into more secure accommodation.

The report provides the backdrop for a toolkit that shares ideas, resources and practical strategies for implementing the recommendations locally to improve the lives of those living in UTA across the country. The toolkit includes a handbook (on the reverse of this report) and a wallchart that will be distributed with this publication. Both will form part of a wider online toolkit of resources available at Justlife’s website.4

  • The journey home: A handbook to setting up a temporary accommodation board. This handbook highlights the steps, questions, and good practice examples that organisations and groups will need to consider when setting up their own group or strategy to help improve the lives of those living in temporary accommodation.
  • The journey home: Visualising the journey. This is a visual representation, presented as a wallchart, of the common experiences of individuals as they journey through UTA, and shows how the actions of others, and recommendations of our own, might help to support tenants at various points along the path.

This report is structured as follows:

  • The next section briefly summarises our recommendations.
  • The subsequent section breaks down the four stages of the UTA journey, describing the challenges experienced and expanding on our recommendations in each area.
  • We then present a summary of the conclusions emerging from our research and signpost to further resources.

1 Those automatically considered in priority need include families with dependent children, pregnant women, young adults leaving care and/or under the age of 18 years, and those made homeless by emergency circumstances.

2 Bed and Breakfast accommodation is defined by Shelter as including ‘commercial hotels, guest houses, lodging houses and private homes’ (Carter 1997: 9). This type of accommodation is included in our definition of UTA, and therefore counting those in B&B accommodation is useful for determining quantity estimates for those residing in short-term insecure accommodation overall.