Welsh Government have set the goal for a Wales where homelessness is rare, and if it does occur, is brief and non-recurrent. The motivation behind this Data Insight was the need for new measures to monitor the homeless sectors progress in meeting this goal for Wales. Using individual level data on people approaching the housing team in the City and County of Swansea, my ADR Wales colleague Dr Peter Mackie and I have begun to explore possible measures for repeated homeless service use.

Drawing on examples from Scotland, the United States of America, and Australia, we created measures of repeat interactions with the housing team in the City and County of Swansea. Three annual measures were constructed for 2013 to 2015, giving the percentage of people within each year who had been assessed by the housing team: (1) in the previous year; (2) in the previous 2 years; and (3) at any time prior to the year of the measure.

Repeat homeless service use ranged from 11% of applicants when only looking at assessments in the previous year (Measure 1), up to 24% when based on 3 years of available data (Measure 3). Though this may appear a stark difference, in Australia, where a ‘returning client’ is anyone who has ever previously been assisted by a specialist homelessness agency, 58% of people were returners in 2018-19 — when based on 7 years of prior data.

It is hoped that this Data Insight provides a starting point for discussions around how repeat homelessness should be defined to meet the needs of policy and practice, and ultimately measured. The Data Insight also illustrates that we potentially need measures that short, medium, and long-term time-periods, to assess whether the goal of non-recurrent homelessness is being met.