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Brain injury and homelessness

Understanding the link

Brain injury and homelessness

Brain injury and homelessness

Our research, backed up by international studies suggests that half of all homeless people may live with a brain injury.

It also suggests that brain injury may contribute to becoming homeless, as 90% of respondents in our study reported that their first injury had been sustained before becoming homeless.

Both figures indicate that better awareness and provision of appropriate services could help prevent people from becoming homeless and support those already experiencing it.

Brain injury is often referred to as a ‘hidden disability’ as the cognitive, behavioural, and emotional consequences are not visible to the naked eye and can often be interpreted as behaviour that challenges. As such, the impacts of a brain injury can make it very difficult to plan, gain and maintain accommodation. For example, a brain injury may:

  • Cause memory problems, increasing the likelihood of missing important meetings or payments that may affect your tenancy.
  • Affect judgement and impulse control, which can make managing your money more challenging or mean you are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviour.
  • Impact your ability to communicate or understand complex instructions. This may affect your capacity to comprehend or discuss your circumstances with services or those involved in your housing.
  • Bring about personality changes, impact social skills and emotional regulation, which can lead to relationship breakdown with loved ones or neighbours.

Our work in this area to date

In 2012, we conducted the first-ever UK research study into the prevalence of brain injury within the homeless community of Leeds. 48% cent of homeless people had sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI). This was over twice the number in a control group of people who were not homeless (21%). Of the 48% we assessed:

  • 90% reported that their first injury had been sustained before becoming homeless
  • over half (60%) said they had sustained more than one brain injury – over twice as many as in the control group (24%)
  • the average age when they said they had experienced their first brain injury was 19

Following these research studies, we provided a Community Linkworker service in Leeds to support those experiencing homelessness who may have a brain injury. The Community Linkworker identified people with a brain injury by screening them using the Brain Injury Screening Index (BISI ®). This service is no longer running, however, you can read the report here.

Creating real change

In 2023, Brainkind met with the Minister for Housing and Homelessness to discuss our recommendations for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). We put a set of proposals to the minister, which you can read here. We are hoping to reconnect with DLUHC following the publication of the ABI Strategy.

The Brainkind Policy and Social Change team also delivered brain injury training in the BISI® for frontline practitioners for Changing Futures Sheffield. The training was to support their research establishing the prevalence of brain injury amongst vulnerable populations in Sheffield, including those experiencing homelessness. This project is ongoing and due to conclude later this year.

What next?

We are looking at expanding our training offer for practitioners working in healthcare and homelessness services. More information on this will be available in 2024.

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