Autism and Homelessness Toolkit

The Autism and Homelessness Toolkit is being launched this World Autism Awareness Week. It is aimed at people working in the homelessness and supported housing sectors in England. The toolkit will familiarise them with autism and give them ideas and strategies on how to support people who are homeless and could be – or are – autistic.

We were really pleased to be able to contribute to this important toolkit, alongside other members of the steering group. But we urgently need more research to investigate the link between autism and homelessness and how to prevent those at risk from becoming homeless.

Download the toolkit

This project was led by Dr Alasdair Churchland, a clinical psychologist, in response to alarming 2018 research suggesting that autistic people could be at significantly higher risk of being homeless than the general population.

Dr Churchard convened a multi-disciplinary steering group to contribute to the toolkit. This group included the National Autistic Society, St Mungo’s, Homeless Link, Resources for Autism, Westminster City Council and autistic people with experience of homelessness. All the organisations involved gave their time, expertise and materials free of charge.

The challenges autistic people face in communicating and interacting with others can lead to relationship breakdown and social isolation. This is likely to reduce support networks and create difficulties in accessing help. Family breakdown may be a particular issue for some autistic people.

While more research needs to be done, it seems likely that autistic people may also be particularly vulnerable when they are homeless. Social isolation, which raises risks to health and wellbeing, may also reduce the chances of engaging with homelessness services. Furthermore, because autistic people have difficulty understanding and predicting the behaviour of others, they may be more at risk of violence and abuse.

Dr Alasdair Churchard said:“Autistic people appear to be at greater risk of homelessness. However I was still shocked that such a high proportion of the people experiencing homelessness in my research showed strong signs of autism.

“Given this, I wanted to take action to help autistic people experiencing homelessness receive better support, and the Autism and Homelessness toolkit is an important step towards this. It is the result of expertise from a wide range of individuals, organisations and charities who gave up their time for free. I would encourage workers and organisations in the homelessness field to use and share the toolkit in their practice.

More research is needed in this area to understand the link between autism and homelessness, how to support autistic people who are experiencing homelessness, and how to prevent autistic people from falling into homelessness in the first place.

Tim Nicholls, Head of Policy at the National Autistic Society, said: "Research suggests that an alarming proportion of people who are homeless could be autistic - and that there is a lack of understanding about the specific challenges they face and not enough appropriate support.

"It's well known that many autistic children and adults struggle to get the support they need and end up missing out on an education, struggling to find work and becoming socially isolated. And we've heard troubling anecdotal reports of adults falling into homelessness. But it's only recently that the scale of the problem is starting to become clear.

"We were really pleased to be able to contribute to this important toolkit - and believe it will help staff working in the homelessness and supported housing sectors to support people who are homeless and could also be autistic. This is a very welcome step. But we urgently need more research to investigate the link between autism and homelessness and how to prevent those at risk from becoming homeless.

Autistic people who are homeless have gone unrecognised and unsupported for far too long.

Further information

  • Dowload the toolkit
  • Read a blog from Dr Alasdair Churchard, explaining more about the toolkit and his research