Who becomes homeless? Why? What stresses and strains do these people face? Does losing a home provoke other problems or is it a sequel to them? How far do government policies and provisions go towards meeting the needs of the homeless? What changes would be desirable? To what extent is homelessness due to housing shortages?
Originally published in 1971, these and other questions are tackled in this study of the development of services for the homeless. It is based on detailed investigation of provisions in South Wales and the West Country and is a study of the lives of over 500 families who, at some stage since 1963, had lost their homes. Hitherto studies of homelessness had been restricted to London or other big urban centres. The questions posed and answered here are much more general, and relevant to all parts of the country at the time.
Information for the survey came from the records kept in Local Authority Welfare, Children’s Health and Housing Departments, the Probation and After-Care Service, local offices of the Department of Health and Social Security, and many voluntary organizations. The findings suggest that, in the areas studied, homelessness was worse than anticipated, and that its demands on the social services were similar in range but different in order of priority from those in the metropolis. Poor housing conditions remain an important feature, reinforced by unhelpful attitudes in housing management. Housing shortages are important for large families and those who cannot be self-dependent – more so than for others. Looming over the whole picture is homelessness resulting from broken marriages and family disputes, with the attendant difficulties of unsupported motherhood, poverty, sickness and unemployment.