Change that leads to better lives

Blog: Research on homelessness and neurodiversity

We were asked to do some research about neurodivergent people's experience of homelessness. In this blog, research and evaluation officer Lauren Blood talks about the work.

Homelessness and neurodicersity
Homelessness and neurodiversity. Image of person lying on a bench.

Housing inequalities in the UK, such as rising rent costs and poor quality of housing, have been getting worse since the Covid 19 pandemic and the cost of living crisis. Since the pandemic, the number of people sleeping rough has increased by a quarter and the number of people living in temporary accommodation has reached over 100,000.

Anecdotally, services that support people facing homelessness have noticed an increase in autistic clients. There is also evidence that neurodivergent people are at a higher risk of becoming homeless. For example, research estimates that about 12% of people experiencing homelessness are autistic, compared to 1-2% of the general population. People with ADHD are also at a greater risk of becoming homeless.

Due to these concerns, NDTi were asked to do some research about neurodivergent people’s experience of homelessness in one local authority area. We put together a neurodiverse research team, including Dr. Gemma Williams, Paul Gutherson, Dr. Seb Shaw and myself, Lauren Blood.

Lauren Blood homelessness quote
Image of Lauren Blood with quote: The people we spoke to had experienced exclusion from a young age. For some, this started at school which made it harder to get a job and find secure housing.

Gemma said: “Having a safe and secure place to call home is such an important human need. It's also one that hinges on many other aspects of life that, being autistic myself, I know neurodivergent people can find hard at times (for example, doing paperwork, managing finances, interacting with others and handling challenging sensory environments). This was such a wonderful opportunity to hear from people with lived experience of being neurodivergent and homeless and to use that to feed into improving services for people in similar positions.”

We looked at previous research, to find out why neurodivergent people might be more likely to become homeless. We also spoke to seven people with personal experience of neurodivergence, insecure housing and unemployment. We worked with them to create life maps, which are a way of showing someone’s life so far in words or pictures.

Paul said: “This piece of work provided a great opportunity to use creative research methods to explore the relationships between key moments in the lives of the neurodivergent people who took part and their housing journeys.”

The people we spoke to had experienced exclusion from a young age. For some, this started at school which made it harder to get a job and find secure housing.

Seb said: “Neurodivergent people face so many barriers in society. If we are failed early in life by the education system, this may increase these barriers, leading to more challenges and an increased risk of experiencing homelessness.”

People often didn’t have a strong social network that could act as a ‘safety net’ when they went through difficult times. When they became homeless or unemployed, services could be complicated and confusing. Unfortunately, some people didn’t get the support they needed at the right time. We looked at examples when support had fallen short, and used what we learned to make recommendations about how services could be improved for neurodivergent people. More details can be found in the report.

These findings are a powerful reminder of the exclusion that neurodivergent people face and the lasting impact this can have throughout their lives. Ultimately, to prevent homelessness, we need to start with inclusion from a young age, as well as supporting people who face a crisis point later in their lives.

Read the summary report here.


Being neurodivergent means that means that someone’s brain processes, learns and/or behaves differently from what is considered ‘typical’. For example, they may be autistic, have a learning disability, have ADHD, have dyslexia or Tourette’s.

Exclusion means that someone is facing disadvantages and discrimination on the basis of an aspect of their identity, such as gender, age, ethnicity or disability.

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