Homelessness: key data sources

Scottish Government administrative data

The Scottish Government collects data on the number of homelessness applications to each local authority in Scotland, and about people approaching the Housing Options homelessness prevention services. Annual and bi-annual publications are available. These data have the advantage that they use consistent definitions and are nationally comparable. However, since they include only those applying for statutory homelessness support, they are likely to provide an under-estimate of the true number of homeless people. They also contain only limited information on health issues and on rough sleeping.

Data from local services

Glasgow Homelessness Network publishes regular reports on the use of the Glasgow winter night shelter and of other homelessness services across Glasgow. These data provide another perspective on the size of the homeless population and, in particular, those who might otherwise sleep rough. However, they are only available for a limited geographical area.

In Fife, linkage of data from local authority and acute hospital records has allowed a comparison of healthcare utilisation among those seeking statutory homelessness support with those among general population of Fife. A presentation (237Kb) detailing the results of this exercise is available.

Historical data from Scottish Household Survey

Until 2015, the Scottish Household Survey included questions on whether respondents had ever been homeless (defined as having lost one’s home with no alternative accommodation to go to) or threatened with homelessness, and whether they currently feel threatened by homelessness. These questions were dropped from the Survey in 2016 but provide historical data on rates of previous experiences of homelessness and housing insecurity.

National linkage exercise

An ongoing project by the Scottish Government and National Records of Scotland aims to link records from local authority applications for statutory homelessness support to health data, to provide a ‘snapshot’ of health needs among people who are homeless compared to the general population. Results are due to be published in late 2017.

Oral health among homeless people

A survey of the oral health among a convenience sample of 853 homeless people, known as Smile4Life was undertaken in seven Scottish NHS board areas in 2008/09. It also included some questions on other health needs, such as mental health and use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. The final report (6Mb) was published in 2011.