Brain injury victims ‘at greater danger’ of becoming homeless

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PEOPLE with brain injuries are more than twice as likely to become homeless, a ground-breaking study in Yorkshire has found.

Nearly half of 100 homeless people interviewed in Leeds said they had sustained a traumatic brain injury compared with only one in five of a group of non-homeless.

Experts say the research – only the second study of its kind carried out in the world – indicates brain injuries could contribute to the risk of becoming homeless triggered by communication, memory and behaviour problems which lead to a higher risk of family breakdown and joblessness.

Campaigners hope the work will lead to efforts by health, housing and care experts across the country to examine ways of preventing homelessness among people with brain injuries.

Prof Michael Oddy, who carried out the work for The Disabilities Trust Foundation, said it was important agencies dealing with the homeless checked for a history of head injury so appropriate support could be provided.

In the study, 48 per cent of homeless people reported a brain injury compared with 21 per cent in the general population. Some 90 per cent of homeless people said they had suffered their first injury, mainly due to accidents, falls and assault, prior to becoming homeless on an average at the age of 20.

Barrie Oldham, chief executive at The Disabilities Trust which has centres around the UK including York and Leeds, said an estimated 100,000 people faced long-term disabilities due to the “silent epidemic” of brain injuries.

“We know that these injuries can shatter people’s lives and this ground-breaking research is the first step towards a better understanding of the possible link between homelessness and brain injury,” he said.

Deborah Fortescue, head of the foundation, said a new helpline in Leeds allowed homeless people with brain injuries to contact a specialist support worker. It was keen to expand its work with agencies in other parts of the UK to help people out of homelessness. “Training for the professionals who work with them is vital, as people with a brain injury need to have specialised support to regain their skills and confidence,” she said.