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Nations apart? Experiences of single people across Great Britain

This report provides the first ever profile of single homeless people across England, Wales and Scotland. Drawing on interviews with nearly 500 homeless people across 16 local authorities, it shows the reasons people first become homeless and asks what lessons can be learnt from the approaches taken by the different countries.

Key findings

  • There are significant differences in the profile of single homeless people across Great Britain, with differences associated with: age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, support needs, and housing histories.
  • There are major differences in the assistance provided to single homeless people across Great Britain and these impact considerably on their experiences, enabling only some to resolve their homelessness.
  • Most single homeless people are male (83%), aged 21-50 (76%) with a median average age of 35, White British (81%), and of British nationality (85%), albeit a significant minority (10%) are from accession state countries.
  • At some point during their lives homeless people have faced: unemployment (64% of respondents), mental ill health (49%), drug dependency (48%), alcohol dependency (46%), and serving a prison sentence (41%).
  • Nearly 50% of respondents first became homeless aged 20 or younger. The median average age was 22.
  • 44% of people first became homeless from the parental/family home, with a further 21% exiting the social rented sector and 11% leaving the private rented sector.
  • The main reasons why people left their accommodation during their first episode of homelessness are: a non-violent dispute (41%), a violent dispute (19%), being given notice by a landlord (15%), and discharge from an institution (12%). The percentage of people leaving accommodation as a result of a dispute within the household (violent or non-violent) then decreases after the first experience of homelessness, whereas the percentage who become homeless after leaving an institution increases.
  • 10% of respondents had never lived in permanent accommodation during their adult lives and nearly 80% had slept rough. Young homeless people appear to be particularly vulnerable: 1 in 4 young people (aged under 21) have never lived in permanent housing.
  • Nearly three quarters of people experienced more than one period of homelessness and more than half had faced three or more experiences.
  • The earlier a person becomes homeless, the greater the likelihood that they will have five or more homeless experiences.


Mackie, P. & Thomas, I. (2014) Nations apart? Experiences of single homeless people across Great Britain. London: Crisis.