Battered, broken, bereft - new rough sleeping report

31 October 2011

Three out of five outreach workers across the country say they are seeing an increasing number of rough sleepers, according to  new research published today by homelessness charity St Mungo's.

Moreover, almost three quarters (71%) of those surveyed did not believe that there was enough emergency accommodation for rough sleepers in their area

The figures come from a new report ‘Battered, broken, bereft - why people still end up rough sleeping' - Battered broken bereft St Mungos rough sleeping report October 2011

This includes findings from the first ever survey of outreach workers across England as well as statistics from St Mungo's survey of its 1,500 clients - the largest survey of homeless people of its kind.

The report highlights relationship breakdowns, domestic violence and mental health conditions as three of the main traumas leading people to sleep rough on the streets today:

  • Relationship breakdown is the largest single trigger of rough sleeping cited by outreach workers, leading to 42% of male rough sleeping.
  • Among women, 35% slept rough after leaving home to escape domestic violence.
  • Perhaps the most shocking finding is that 57% of outreach workers believe that the number of rough sleepers in their area with mental health problems has increased over the last five years.

Charles Fraser, St Mungo's Chief Executive, said: "It is truly distressing that rough sleeping is on the rise after so much has been achieved. We welcome the Government action taken to stop anyone from spending a second night on the streets and this approach seems very promising. But what's also needed now is better support to prevent vulnerable people from hitting the streets in the first place - a commitment to ‘no first night out'.

"The cuts in ‘Cinderella' services such as those supporting people with mental health conditions and domestic violence are of particular concern. As services close, or thresholds for accessing support are raised, some vulnerable people are being left with nowhere to turn with devastating effect. These cuts are proving too costly, both in human terms and in the very real costs of supporting people's recovery from the trauma of rough sleeping. 

"We know rough sleeping can be prevented if the right support is provided when people need it. People may well battered, broken and bereft - but we must not abandon them."

The report recommends that better housing support is made available, particularly around mental health and domestic violence, that local authorities adapt their housing advice services to maximise early intervention opportunities for vulnerable people and that investment is made in emergency accommodation.

The report includes a foreword by Jeremy Paxman.


Contact Judith Higgin, St Mungo's, on 020 8762 5645,

Quotes from outreach workers

"The cuts to mental health services are meaning more mental health patients are hitting the streets as rough sleepers. The thresholds to accessing inpatient mental health beds and statutory services have been raised to exclude rough sleepers and those with dual diagnosis." Outreach worker - East of England

"[There is an] increase in those discharged from community care support as no longer meet the matrix for learning disability or mental health, especially personality disorder" Outreach Worker - South East

Case study quotes from the report:

  • When Derrick's relationship with his girlfriend broke down, he approached the local council for help. They said there was nothing to be done as he could not prove residence despite living there for 12 years. Eventually he ended up sleeping rough and kept trying the council for help. They gave him phone numbers; he repeatedly used up phone credit without getting through to anyone that could help him. Finally, a security guard overheard him and made a call for him to an emergency shelter.
  • "I became homeless because I got pregnant at 14, my mum threw me out and after that I got married. My husband raped me and beat me up. So I ran to London to escape him and have been on the street ever since" - St Mungo's Client

Latest figures from CHAIN (the Combined Homeless and Information Network, managed by charity Broadway) highlight that over 1,000 people were seen rough sleeping for the first time in London between July and September this year, out of a total of 2, 069.

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