What are we thinking about at Justlife?
In October 2013 Justlife partnered with IPPR North (Institute of Public Policy and Research) to conduct the Just Thinking project. Just Thinking is exploring the impact of temporary accommodation on the health and well-being of people who are experiencing multiple disadvantage.
So far 26 B&B residents (peer researchers) have participated in the project by documenting their experiences through focus groups, interviews and journalling. Findings, challenges and questions are reported on the Just Thinking project blog. To read more news from the Just Thinking blog or comment on posts, click here: http://justthinkinguk.wordpress.com
One of the latest blog entries discusses the ebb & flow of people through different states of homelessness and the challenges that this brings to the project
Ebb & Flow
How many times have you moved house in the past six months? or even the past 5 years? For many residents of ‘temporary’ B&B accommodation the journey of life is one of constant change. When someone registers at Justlife they give us their address, but often the registration forms become covered in changes and amendments detailing the movements, new addresses and contact details of that person. This all gets very complicated and for ease, several service users have Justlife as their postal address.
In recent weeks we have been trying to find a close estimate for the total number of homeless households living in B&B. In 2008, New Philanthropy Capital published a report “Lost Property” which highlighted that there were approximately 260,000 people in England living on the streets or in temporary accommodation, plus many more who were sofa surfing or in overcrowded homes. The total estimate is around 560,000.
But trying to record numbers for any category of homelessness is a complex job because, as New Philanthropy Capital says:
“Our snapshot estimates do not fully capture the often chaotic flows through the different categories of homelessness. Someone living in council-arranged accommodation may have been living in a concealed household in overcrowded conditions three months ago, and may be sleeping rough in six weeks’ time. The flow through homelessness is neither progressive nor predictable.” (1)
The chaotic housing history is a reflection of often complex substance misuse and alcohol dependency issues, multiple relationship breakdowns, a patchy education and employment history and chronic health issues. Rent arrears, criminal activity, landlord interventions and management crackdowns and short term agreements also force people to move on and change their living arrangements… yet again.
In the past five months 24 people in Manchester and Brighton have taken part in the Just Thinking research, and only three have remained at the same address for the entirety of this time. Here are a few short-term housing histories from other participants over the past few months. I hope you don’t get too confused… Three participants have moved from one B&B to another B&B. One man lived in three different B&Bs before securing and moving to a housing association property. Two have moved from B&B into supported accommodation and due to issues have found themselves back in B&B. Two people have moved between B&B and rough sleeping several times, one is now rough sleeping. Another two move between sofa surfing and B&B. One has moved from B&B to another B&B and is now successfully in rehab and another has moved into a dry house following detox.
One lady said: “When I am skint I go to my mums, stay with her for a bit. But my housing benefit still goes to him [the landlord] then I know I can come back.” The two who had moved from B&B into supported accommodation and back into B&B were both devastated that they had made steps backwards. Recognising that they had both caused problems in the supported accommodation, they felt frustrated that they had to “start again.” Overcrowding moved one man between B&Bs, high top-up charges moved another person and an abusive relationship caused one person to start rough sleeping. These are just a few examples of why there has been so much movement.
Interestingly out of the 24 people interviewed, only two people would call the B&B in which they live “home” and they are two of the three people who have remained in the same residence for the research project so far. In fact, they have been living in this ‘temporary’ B&B accommodation for five and eight years.
During this study we are tracking the health and wellbeing of B&B residents on a longitudinal basis. But it will not solely reflect lives and situations of the residents of B&Bs, but the chaotic flows in and out of various living circumstances. Our research and findings will poke into the health of rough sleepers, those in supported accommodation and all other forms of homelessness and housing as lives continue.
Let’s go with the flow.
1. Lost Property: Tackling Homelessness in the UK, New Philanthropy Capital, June 2008: http://www.thinknpc.org/publications/lost-property/lost-property-full/?post-parent=4979