Black History Month takes place in the UK every October, celebrating and highlighting the impact of black heritage and culture. However, it also offers an opportunity to highlight the inequalities still faced by black people to this day.

This year, Emmaus is highlighting inequalities within the housing system that see people from black and other ethnically minoritised backgrounds more likely to experience homelessness and housing inequality.

Research by Shelter, the Centre for Homelessness Impact, Heriot-Watt University, and multiple other sources shows that people from black and minoritised backgrounds face disproportionate levels of homelessness in the UK. The data shows that:

  • Black people are more than three times as likely to experience homelessness as white people in England and twice as likely in Scotland.
  • People from mixed ethnic backgrounds are almost twice as likely to be affected by homelessness in England.
  • All minoritised ethnic groups are more likely to experience housing disadvantage than white British groups.

During Black History Month and beyond, it is vital we address the deep inequalities that persist in the housing system and deny thousands of people a safe home.

Why does housing inequality persist?

Inequalities in the housing system have their origins in the historic racism and prejudice that people from black and other minoritised backgrounds experienced, and continue to experience, in the UK.

As research from the London School of Economics highlights, historically many migrants were refused jobs and housing. Institutional and personal discrimination saw people from minoritised backgrounds more likely to be offered poor quality homes in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

A Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) report also states that policies ‘dispersing’ asylum seekers to deprived areas has compounded the problem. In turn people from minoritised backgrounds have been blamed for ‘creating’ these environments, which perpetuates racial prejudice.

The JRF report says: “These injustices are not inevitable, but they have wide foundations in our economy, society and legislation.” It states that recent welfare reforms, such as the benefit cap, disproportionately impacted people from black and minoritised backgrounds. While inequalities in the labour market are another key driver of housing inequalities.

What is Emmaus doing?

Giving an unconditional welcome is a fundamental part of the Emmaus ethos. This means that Emmaus communities welcome people from all heritages and backgrounds. People living in Emmaus communities, known as companions, receive personalised support to address their specific needs and get the help they need to achieve their goals. Communities offer a home for as long as it is needed.

As well as supporting people to rebuild their lives after homelessness, Emmaus works to support people who are experiencing poverty and social exclusion. This includes advice workshops where people can find support on a wide range of issues, social supermarkets for people who are struggling with bills, and warm spaces where people can spend time without having to make a purchase.

Emmaus UK has reaffirmed its commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion by working to develop and embed an EDI strategy for the people we support, staff and supporters, in all areas and at every level of our work.

Emmaus’s roots lie in activism – its founder, Abbé Pierre fought for the rights of people who were excluded and vulnerable. Emmaus continues to campaign for change, take part in grassroots movements and use its voice to speak up for those that it supports.

Do you need help?

If you are homeless, vulnerably housed or at risk of becoming homeless, find out how you can get help from an Emmaus community.

Find out what services Emmaus offers near you – find your local Emmaus.

Support Emmaus

Emmaus communities generate income through charity shops and social enterprises. This income is used to support companions as they rebuild their lives after homelessness. Every time you purchase something from an Emmaus charity shop, you are helping that community support people away from homelessness. Find your nearest shop.

Emmaus UK provides support to the Emmaus federation, through funding, training, governance support, and more. When you support Emmaus UK, you are helping Emmaus communities across the UK and furthering our mission to end homelessness.

About Black History Month

With its origins dating back to 1920’s American, Black History Month is an annual celebration that takes place in the UK every October. It aims to promote and celebrate contributions by black people, and foster an understanding of Black history in general. It gives everyone the opportunity to share, celebrate and understand the impact of black heritage and culture.


Black History Month: Latest news.

Centre for Homelessness Impact: Over-representation of ethnic minorities experiencing homelessness across the UK.

Heriot-Watt University: Black people are over three times more likely to experience homelessness.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation: New research highlights ‘shameful’ racial disparities in housing system.

London School of Economics and Political Science: Racial discrimination in UK housing has a long history and deep roots.

Shelter: Black people are more than three times as likely to experience homelessness.