Each November, a service at the church at St Martin in the Fields marks the deaths of people who have been homeless. This year, 160 names were read aloud. Some statistics never fail to shock us.
When the Stop the Scandal campaign launched, we heard that four in 10 people sleeping rough have a mental health problem. This report looks closely at how we should respond, and uncovers new figures that show how far there is still to go.
There are stories underneath the statistics. Our experience is that people are treated poorly and often labelled, scapegoated and judged for sleeping rough. People see drink or drugs behind rough sleeping, but rarely thing about mental health. Mental ill-health can affect anyone, but people sleeping rough face adverse weather conditions, fear and isolation that puts them at greater risk.
We want to pay tributes to the services, charities, volunteers and businesses that are already working to help people sleeping rough in bigger and smaller ways. It is important to appreciate what we already have, and not to cut resource where they are most needed.
But to stop this scandal, we have to go further. Outside In promotes client involvement in everything St Mungo's does, and the first step is to listen. This report listens to people who have slept rough in the past, hearing evidence from the horse's mouth.
No one should be stuck on the streets - everyone has the right to a home. But recovery is not just a roof. When people come inside they begin to reflect and may for the first time start learning how to manage their mental health. It is at this crucial time that support is most needed.
The government should do its homework, and it must take action to stop homelessness. We need to better understand homelessness and its root causes, and most of all we need urgent investment to make sure nobody is stuck sleeping rough with a mental health problem.
- Outside In members, on behalf of clients at St Mungo's