As the first report from a three-year project, this paper attempts to outline the potential scale of the 'hidden homelessness' problem – which covers homeless households which don't receive council support and are not counted in official statistics – and to illustrate the often dire standard of the properties they are forced to live in.

For a variety of reasons, many homeless households do not get full local authority support to find a permanent place to live. The lack of other options means that too many homeless adults are driven towards the weakest corners of the English housing market, living in bed-and-breakfast accommodation (B&Bs) and 'houses in multiple occupation' (HMOs), with little support to help them into a secure and settled place to live. The housing conditions and social environments that these 'unsupported temporary accommodations' foster are typically dreadful.

This report reviews the procedures and policies that lead to variation from place to place in how different types of homeless households are classified and supported, the different types of property that those households which do not receive full support frequently wind up living in, and the variation in protection and regulation that applies to supported and unsupported accommodation, with the latter generally escaping most regulation and inspection.

It also provides the startling testimony of 35 unsupported accommodation residents who we engaged as part of this three-year project. Their experiences provide a rich and disturbing picture of the physical and social conditions in unsupported temporary accommodation, and its consequences for their physical and mental health wellbeing.

As part of a three-year project, this report makes two broad, initial recommendations:

  • Government must develop more accurate tools for measuring and monitoring the true extent of unsupported temporary accommodation, to support a better understanding of latent demand for support services and secure accommodation.
  • Local authorities must use their existing powers to full effect to tackle landlords who are exploiting the most vulnerable in society.