Experience of racial discrimination linked to high risk of homelessness – study

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According to research, Black people who experience discrimination, harassment or abuse because of their race are at a much higher risk of homelessness.

Factors related to race, ethnicity and discrimination affect homelessness risks directly, as well as indirectly through increased levels of poverty or a higher likelihood of renting rather than owning , according to the researchers.

The increased risk remains even when other factors such as demographics, employment, poverty and housing tenure are taken into account, according to a study conducted by Heriot-Watt University.

He said the link between discrimination and homelessness is particularly important for black people, but also for mixed groups and some other ethnic groups.

For a typical black-headed household that reports discrimination, the risk of homelessness is nearly 50% higher than for a typical white-headed household, with two-thirds of this effect being indirect via poverty and housing conditions.

The researchers said they focused on exploring these indirect effects following controversies surrounding a report by the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in March 2021.

This argued that geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion all have a greater impact on life chances than racism, and the commission chairman said that he had found no evidence of institutional racism in the areas examined.

The latest report analyzes ten sets of official data, including the census, with support from experts in race and equality, housing and homelessness, and funding from the Oak Foundation.

The researchers defined homelessness in four ways – basic, like sleeping rough or couch surfing; statutory, such as people assessed by their council as homeless or at risk of homelessness and eligible for support; hidden, such as overcrowding; and people at risk of homelessness due to, for example, financial hardship.

It is part of a three-year program to gather evidence to inform action to eliminate racial discrimination, disparities and injustices in the areas of homelessness and housing.

The report found “overwhelming” evidence that people from black and minority ethnic communities experience disproportionate levels of homelessness in the UK.

Black people are more than three times as likely as white people to be statutory homeless in England, he said.

Almost a third of black people with experience of homelessness said they had experienced discrimination from a social or private landlord.

Black, mixed and other minority ethnic communities were about twice as likely to report experience of discrimination from a landlord if they also had experience of homelessness.

The researchers said this could indicate that experiencing discrimination increases the risk of homelessness, or that being homeless exposes people to more discrimination.

Meanwhile, Asian households had lower rates of statutory homelessness and major forms of homelessness than Black households.

However, they were more likely to experience more hidden aspects, such as overcrowding or “doubling” with other households.

Pakistani and Bangladeshi households face a greater risk of homelessness than Indians and other Asian groups, he found.

The risk of homelessness was found to vary by geography and racial group, with black and minority ethnic communities living in London facing significantly higher risks.

For example, a household headed by a young, black, single, tenant in London, poor and discriminated against, has an increased risk of homelessness that is five times that of an average white household, its modeling suggests.

Professor Glen Bramley, of the Institute of Social Policy, Housing, Equalities Research at Heriot-Watt University and co-author of the report, said: “This report reveals the shocking magnitude of the disparities in the risks of homelessness. sheltering between some ethnic minority communities and white people living in the UK today.

“What is particularly troubling about the results is the apparent link between homelessness and racial discrimination. This requires further investigation and we are committed to continuing this work. »

Dr Halima Begum, Chief Executive of the Runnymede Trust, said: “As with homelessness, racism is structural and is embedded in the processes and practices of systems and institutions that should act as a safety net preventing people to become homeless to begin with, and then to help them escape the cycle of exclusion once they have become homeless.

“Safety nets don’t work for minority groups.”

Crisis chief executive Matt Downie said: “Every day we see in our services that black, Asian and minority ethnic groups are experiencing higher rates of homelessness, but this research puts the reality and the magnitude of the problem.

“It is horrifying that people are being exposed to harassment and abuse in an attempt to find a safe and secure place to live.”

Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said: “The direct link between homelessness and racial discrimination cannot be ignored and more needs to be done.”

A spokesman for the Department of Leveling, Housing and Communities said: ‘Any form of discrimination is abhorrent and must be eradicated. We have given councils £316million this year to prevent homelessness and ensure families are not left without a roof over their heads. This can prevent evictions and help people find new homes.

“We are also committed to providing a fairer deal for tenants and will introduce legislation in due course.”

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