Effective Homelessness Prevention? Explaining Reductions in Homelessness in Germany and England

England and Germany are unusual amongst developed economies in reporting declining levels of homelessness. This paper argues that, notwithstanding weaknesses in the available data, there are good grounds for thinking that in recent years there has been a reduction in homelessness in both countries. While a range of factors has contributed to these downward trends (a slackening housing market in Germany ; tightened local authority assessment procedures in England), there is evidence to support claims that targeted preventative interventions have had a substantial beneficial effect. Encouragingly, and perhaps surprisingly, it seems that positive outcomes can be achieved even in the face of unhelpful structural trends (rising poverty and unemployment in Germany ; worsening housing affordability in England). The experiences of Germany and England suggest that successful prevention policies must be carefully targeted at the key ‘triggers’ for homelessness, and need to be underpinned by appropriate resources and an effective governance framework for their implementation. The paper also highlights the profound impact that inter-country conceptual and institutional differences have on the understanding of homelessness and its prevention, cautioning against the dangers of international comparisons which pay insufficient attention to national contexts.

Publication Date: 
Germany & England