Prime Minster urged to stop the scandal of people with mental health problems sleeping rough

25 February 2016

As new government statistics show a 30% increase in rough sleeping across England, homelessness charity St Mungo’s is calling on the Prime Minster David Cameron to stop the scandal of people left sleeping rough with mental health problems.

Government figures show that last year 3,569 people slept rough on any one night, up from 2,744 in 2014.

New research from St Mungo’s launched today shows that the number of people rough sleeping with a mental health problem is also rising and that 61% of staff working in homelessness services say rough sleepers can’t access the mental health services they need.

St Mungo’s report Stop the Scandal: An investigation into mental health and rough sleeping found that four in ten rough sleepers have a mental health problem, rising to over half of rough sleepers from the UK. In addition, rough sleepers with a mental health problem end up on the streets for longer.

The charity is asking people to sign an open letter to the Prime Minister urging him to build on his previous commitments to tackle rough sleeping and enhance mental health services for all those in need.

Howard Sinclair, Chief Executive of St Mungo’s, said: “Few would disagree that it’s nothing short of a scandal that people with mental health problems are sleeping rough. Not only that, but this incredibly vulnerable group are more likely to remain in dangerous and unhealthy situations for longer. The very real concern is both the shocking, unprecedented rise in people who are sleeping rough, and evidence that more of this group are struggling with poor mental health.”

“We are asking the Prime Minister to lead a new, ambitious national rough sleeping strategy which ensures that government departments and the NHS work together. It must deliver mental health assessments and professional support to people on the street, specialist supported housing to help their recovery, and the right support so people don’t end up sleeping rough after leaving mental health hospitals.

“The Prime Minster must show leadership to protect our most vulnerable and help transform life chances, with more funding for specialist homeless mental health support and a strong safety net at the heart.”

Patrick slept on the streets of London for 18 years before being helped by St Mungo’s. He said: “When I became homeless I was in a very dark place due to a traumatic experience in my past. I started using substances to forget about what happened to me and cope with the severe anxiety and loss of confidence I faced. It was after that I stayed in a St Mungo’s hostel. I isolated myself, I’d had enough, and they offered me talking therapy, psychotherapy. I had never told anyone what happened to me before. If it wasn’t for St Mungo’s, I’d probably be dead by now.”

For the new research St Mungo’s carried out the largest ever national survey of 225 street outreach staff across all English regions about rough sleeping and mental health problems. Key findings of the Stop the Scandal report included that:

• People are sleeping rough soon after leaving a mental health hospital. 78 per cent of survey respondents said that in the last 12 months they had met at least one person sleeping rough who had recently been discharged from a mental health hospital
• 44 per cent of respondents said that the number of people who sleep rough soon after being discharged from a mental health inpatient service is increasing, only 7 per cent said it was decreasing
• 61% of staff working in homelessness services say rough sleepers can’t access the mental health services they need.

To sign up to the campaign visit www.mungos.org/stopthescandal or follow the conversation on twitter at #stopthescandal

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