Homelessness in Scotland: 2019 to 2020

This statistics bulletin provides information on homelessness in Scotland in the period from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020, alongside historical data.

This document is part of a collection

Reasons for Homelessness and Prior Circumstances

Key Points

  • Being ‘asked to leave’ and violent or non-violent household disputes are the most common reasons for homelessness.
  • 45% increase in households becoming homeless from supported accommodation.
  • 2,884 applications had a household member who experienced rough sleeping in the 3 months prior to their application, and 1,643 the night before.

Why do households make a homelessness application?

Chart 5: Main reasons for homelessness, 2019/20
Bar chart showing the main reason for making a homeless application is being ‘asked to leave’
  • Asked to leave (24%)
  • Non-violent dispute / relationship breakdown (19%)
  • Violent / abusive dispute (13%)

The proportions of main reasons have remained largely unchanged over time. (Table 5)

In 2019/20, 3,194 households gave 'Other action by landlord resulting in the termination of the tenancy' as the main reason, accounting for 9% of all applications. While this is a simlar proportion to 2018/19 (10% of applications), this was was a fall of 452 (12%) compared to 3,646 the previous year. 

The application process also seeks to determine the underlying cause to help better understand the main reason given and so asks for additional reasons for failing to maintain the accommodation. 68% of homeless households provded additional reasons. 

Chart 6: Additional reasons for failing to maintain accommodation, 2019/20
Bar chart showing most common additional reason for homelessness is ‘not to do with household’

The most common additional reasons were:

  • Not to do with applicant household (44%)
  • Mental health (25%)
  • Lack of support (21%)
  • Financial difficulties (18%)

'Not to do with the applicant household' includes reasons such as the landlord selling the property, fire, circumstances of other persons sharing the property or harassment by others.

Mental health reasons has experienced the largest increase from 8% of reasons in 2010/11 to 25% in 2019/20. In 2019/20, 6,357 applicants provided this as a reason. (Table 6)

What are the prior circumstances of the homeless population?

As part of the application process information is gathered on where the household became homeless from. Most commonly, households became homeless after staying with friends, family and partners. This ties in with the high levels of reasons given as dispute within household / relationship breakdown seen previously. In 2019/20, 7,355 (23%) become homeless from 'parental / family home / relatives' and 5,783 (18%) from 'friends / partners'. These were increases from the previous year of 337 (from 7,018) and 274 (from 5,509), respectively (both 5%).

There was a large increase in the number of households becoming homeless from 'supported accommodation' – an additional 450 (45%) from 997 in 2018/19 to 1,447 in 2019/20. 

736 (2%) noted becoming homeless from long-term sofa-surfing, an increase of 84 (13%) from 652 the previous year and 227 (45%) from 509 in 2012/13. A futher 149 households reported becoming homeless from long-term rooflessness (less than 1%). (Table 17)

Chart 7 shows how many households who made a homelessness application in 2019/20 reported previous experience of rough sleeping.

Chart 7: Households experiencing rough sleeping, 2002/03 to 2019/20
Line chart of applications with at least one household experiencing rough sleeping prior to their application

1,643 households (4% of all applications) included a household member who experienced rough sleeping the night before their application, and 2,884 households (8% of all applications) reported a household member experiencing rough sleeping in the three months prior to their application. (Tables 2 &3). The numbers reporting rough sleeping increase and decrease to refelct the trends in applications, although the proportions reporting rough sleeping have remained fairly constant since 2010/11.

There is notable variation between local authorities, with a high of 16% in both Dumfries & Galloway and South Ayrshire compared to a low of 0% in Midlothian and Falkirk reporting rough sleeping in the previous 3 months (Table 4).


Email: homelessness_statistics_inbox@gov.scot

Back to top