This project was commissioned by Buckinghamshire County Council, Local Area Forum (LAF) and the Community Wellbeing Programme. It was conducted between June and July 2016 and its aim was to:
Assess the impact homelessness has in Aylesbury, financially, personally and on local resources
Gain a better understanding of how to develop and improve services for individuals who are homeless in Aylesbury, and the greater Aylesbury area, and explore solutions to the problem
The project was not specifically focused on the causes or triggers of homelessness but more on the cost of homelessness to a Local Authority and related services and the impact it had on the health of the individual. It also explored alternative, more cost effective solutions to what is perceived as a growing problem in the area.
There was a sample of 61 respondents in total.
The total, low estimated cost to the local authority, NHS and DWP for these 61 individuals is approximately £2.2 million per year. This equates to an annual estimated bill of nearly £37,000 per person.
Policing costs were not specifically included in the scope of the report, though many of the hotspots were where homeless people slept and many respondents had been arrested for shoplifting, begging or being drunk and disorderly, so some costs were included, as was the case with probation. Cost of arrests, prison stays and stays in police custody were not included in the calculations.
A number of research studies have attempted to calculate the total costs of homelessness. Estimates of the annual expenditure to government from these studies range from £24,000 to £30,000 per person. This report found that 61 respondents were costing approximately £2.2 million per year, nearly £37,000 per person.
Costs associated with supporting somebody with multiple needs can be considerably more if they are homeless and not properly supported. Up to £407,500 per person in extreme cases (August 2012 Department for Communities and Local Government). Therefore, the spend could be much higher as full psychiatric and criminal justice costs were not factored into this report due to the time limitations of the project. The situation with young adults was also not fully explored.
A large percentage of respondents presented with a combination of physical illness, mental health problems and substance use. The majority of these individuals were directed towards private landlords and temporary accommodation and it seemed that many would then become evicted. It appeared the cost of these failed tenancies was mainly being absorbed by private landlords.
Though a high percentage of respondents reported that they were evicted only a few had gone to court. This may indicate that private landlords might be evicting tenants without going through court or the tenant did not attend because they had nobody to advocate for them or/and lacked the mental capacity to negotiate housing issues such as rent arrears.
A single homeless person (i.e. with no dependent children) is unlikely to be judged a ‘priority need’ for housing, unless they are deemed particularly vulnerable. Some respondents interviewed were unable to articulate their vulnerability, at times some would hide it and refuse to acknowledge they were homeless when they were clearly sleeping in areas with no access to running water, sanitation or heating.
Finally, it is granted that many of the costs outlined in this report would be there if the respondents were accommodated, so while there might be costs of supporting somebody with multiple needs whether they are homeless or not, being homeless will inevitably add to these costs.