Estimating the scale and prevalence of homelessness in a society has always been a challenge. The homeless is a fluctuous group and not easy to define. In Denmark two national counts have given point-in-time estimates of the size and composition of the homeless population in a count week in February in both 2007 and 2009 suggesting that approximately 5000 people are homeless at a given time in Denmark. This figure includes not only rough sleepers, but also people in shelters and living randomly at friends and family. The definition of homelessness is based on the ETHOS-classification (European Typology on Homelessness and Housing Exclusion) adjusted to a Danish context.
Though giving comprehensive new knowledge about the homeless population the counts still leaves important questions unanswered. We know very little about the flows in and out of homelessness, and about the accumulated risk of homelessness over time. A new research project aims to throw light over such issues.
A new project at SFI aims at estimating risks of homelessness in the entire Danish population and in specific subgroups. The research is based on individual data from the national client registration system at homeless hostels. The data is attached to register data from Statistics Denmark for the total Danish population. Thereby it is possible to analyze who is enrolled in homeless hostels.
In the project we build a risk model, estimate what factors increase the risk of homelessness, and look at the underlying pathways to homelessness. The study estimates the prevalences of enrollment in a homeless hostel over an 11-year period from 1999 to 2009 for the Danish population and for subgroups such as people outside the labour market and with specific social vulnerabilities. A wide range of background data exist on socioeconomic profiles, education, medical history, foster care in childhood etc. not only for the homeless, but for the entire Danish population.
The longitudinal data provides a possibility to analyse the heterogeneity in the homeless group, for instance to distinguish between individuals who only experience homelessness for a shorter period, and individuals with repeated and long-term spells of homeless. Thereby we can distinguish between for instance the chronic and short-term homelessness. The knowledge can be used as a background for the continued development of interventions to reduce homelessness by providing better knowledge on the target population, and also pointing to focus points for early prevention based on risk patterns in specific subgroups.
The project is financed by the Danish Council for Independent Research – Social Sciences.