Urgent action needed now says St Mungo’s as latest figures show rough sleeping continues to rise in London

    Leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s says urgent action is needed now as new figures show the number of people seen sleeping rough in London continues to rise.

    New data released today (31 October 2022) by the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) shows that between July and September this year 3,628 people were seen sleeping rough in London.

    This is an increase of almost a quarter on the same period last year (2,918) and a 21% increase when compared to the previous three months.

    Of the total number of people seen sleeping rough, more than half (1,844) were doing so for the first time – a rise of 35% on the same period last year.

    The data also shows that between July and September:

    • 481 people were defined as ‘living on the streets’, an increase of 17% on the previous three months and 13% on the same period last year.
    • 44 of those considered to be living on the streets had not be seen sleeping rough in the previous three months
    • More than three quarters of people (76%) were provided with accommodation before they had to spend a second night sleeping rough
    • And brings the total number of people seen sleeping rough in London between April and the end of September to 5,712.

    Petra Salva OBE, Director of Rough Sleeping, Westminster and Migrant Services at St Mungo’s, said: “The rising numbers of people sleeping rough should be a wake-up call to everyone – and we are very worried that worse is yet to come.

    “We are starting to see the serious effects of the deepening cost of living crisis on the streets and in our services, and as we head into the winter it’s very likely that, without help many people who are just about scraping by will no longer be able to manage.

    “What we need now is immediate action. We are asking the Government to uplift benefits in line with inflation, increase the benefit cap and unfreeze Local Housing Allowance rates.

    “These latest figures show just how urgent the situation is and more must be done to prevent even more people becoming homeless.

    “Whatever we face, St Mungo’s specialist outreach teams will be out every day, providing vital help and support. And the fact that more than three out of four people coming to the streets were helped before they had to spend a second night out is testament to the hard work and dedication of outreach and No Second Night Out teams across the capital.”

    CHAIN is commissioned and funded by the Greater London Authority (GLA) and managed by Homeless Link.

    Anyone concerned about someone sleeping rough should contact StreetLink via https://thestreetlink.org.uk/

    The cost of living crisis: our clients’ views

    Our work doesn’t stop at helping people into homes – we keep in touch and offer floating support to make sure that clients like Tracy and Dylan* have everything they need to manage independent or semi-independent living. But the cost of living crisis means that money’s tight. They share their views on how it’s affected them so far.

    “I’ve had to cut back on shopping to top up my electric”

    With support from St Mungo’s, former client Tracy has lived in her own flat for nearly a decade. She explains why the cost of living crisis is worrying her, and how being a member of Outside In, our client involvement group, helps her stay positive.

    “The cost of living is too expensive and I’m really struggling at the moment. I was diagnosed with throat cancer last year and had to have my voice box removed. I use an electric fan daily to help me breathe, and a nebulizer to take medicine. I also need to keep my medicine stored in the fridge – so it’s not easy for me to reduce my electric use.

    "I’ve had to cut back on shopping to make sure I have enough to top up my electric, and a few times I’ve had to ask utilities to help me out and then pay interest back. The cost of living payment from the government just isn’t enough."

    “We need more awareness over who needs help. Right now, there is a lot of stigma over people needing grants or things like that. People think that others are lazy or don’t want to work, but this is far from the truth. Some people have poor health, and those who can work often do.

    “One positive that’s come out of this year is being a member of Outside In, St Mungo’s client representative group. I’ve made some amazing friends who I meet up with regularly. It’s been my lifeline throughout my cancer journey. I don’t know what I would have done without them – they’re like my family. I’d like to say a big thank you to St Mungo’s for being there.”

    “I’m happy to have my own place, but I’m feeling the squeeze”

    After spending some time in hospital, Dylan needed a stable place to recover his mental health. He stayed in one of our specialist services for three years, and now lives in his own flat. He shares how he manages on a small budget.

    “I’m happy to have my own place, but I’m feeling the squeeze. When you start living by yourself, there are a lot more expenses. St Mungo’s helped me set up my housing benefit claim and get a job with the council, but even with both, money is tight.

    “One of my biggest expenses is utilities – it adds up to over £200 a month, for a one bedroom flat.

    “Because I’m in recovery from a mental health intervention, it’s really important that I can have some normality in my life. Things like seeing friends, going to the gym or doing sports can make all the difference, but that’s not cheap either."

    “Food is going up all the time too – the prices change every week. So I try to only buy things from the reduced section. I’m having to delay decorating my flat too – I’m getting things bit by bit. One of the staff from the service helped me to install some curtains recently, which was really helpful.

    “In order to do that regularly and have the life I want, I need a lot more income. But I really appreciate all the help and support I’ve had from St Mungo’s.”

    *Name changed at client’s request.

    How we work with clients struggling with the cost of living

    We’re doing all we can to support clients who are struggling with the cost of living, including:

    Read more about what we do here.

    How we advocate for our clients

    Another way that we are supporting our clients is by making sure their voices and needs are heard by those in power.

    Since 2021, we have been a key member of the Kerslake Commission, an independent commission chaired by Lord Bob Kerslake, the former head of the civil service.

    The Commission aims to understand what we have learnt from the emergency response to rough sleeping during the pandemic, and make recommendations on how we can take those learnings forward to end rough sleeping for good.

    A new progress report published by the Commission in September shows that more than 25% of recommendations have been enacted by stakeholders including national and local government so far.

    Actions include a three year funding commitment for the homeless sector, as well as:

    • The creation of the 2022 Health and Care Act, which will make it easier for organisations to deliver joined-up care to patients experiencing homelessness. When clients with mental and physical health needs get the right support, it makes it much easier for them to support themselves.
    • Plans for a Renters Reform Bill, which tackles the injustice of unfit homes and gives renters more protection. This includes the scrapping of Section 21 or “no fault” evictions, which enable landlords to evict tenants with two months notice, without reason.

    Of course, as the cost of living crisis deepens, more reforms are needed if we are to continue meaningful progress on ending rough sleeping.

    We will continue our work with the Kerslake Commission and key policy makers to promote the best outcomes for our clients.

    To find out more about the Kerslake Commission, and read their latest update, visit the Commission on Rough Sleeping.

    A day in the life of a St Mungo’s outreach worker

    James is a St Mungo’s outreach worker in our Bristol team. He’s out morning, day and night to find people sleeping rough and connect them with the services they need.

    “It’s hard to describe a typical outreach shift – every day is different! At the beginning, I come into work and plan my time, deciding where I’m going to go and which clients I need to see. I’ll also check for referrals from StreetLink, which are really useful when it comes to finding new people. Then I head out into Bristol – usually on foot.

    “When I meet someone new, the number one thing is to try and have a chat and build a rapport with them. You can’t dive in and do an assessment if they don’t feel comfortable, because they’re not going to want to share stuff with you.

    “Once I’ve introduced myself, I’ll try and get as much information as I can about their situation. Sometimes I do the assessment on the street, or I’ll invite them to a café or somewhere more private.

    "But it’s not just about getting people into accommodation. A lot of what we do is planting the seeds – encouraging people to start thinking about ways forward."

    “In many cases, the information I get can be used to make a referral to the Homeless Prevention Team at the council. I can also add them to the Housing Register so that Housing Advisors have the information they need to contact and support them.

    “Whilst all this is going on, there’s lots of other ways that I might be able to help a client. I can give them a mobile phone so that they can be easily contacted, or signpost them to places to get food, drink and a wash. I might help them to make a benefit claim, or walk them to the homeless health clinic. Sometimes, we even have doctors and nurses joining us on shift to offer treatment and advice.

    “If all goes to plan, they’ll get an offer of accommodation, and I’ll help them to get there and move in. I can also refer them to any other services and support they might need.

    “There are a lot of barriers that stop people from accepting our help – such as poor mental health, or addiction. For instance, I recently worked with Alex*, a young man in his twenties, who was experiencing paranoia and thought he was being stalked.

    “When I first met him and offered help, he said he was fine. But over the course of a year, I managed to build a relationship with him, and gain his trust.

    “Eventually, he agreed to let me drive him home. What started with a “Hello, I don’t want any help”, turned into us sitting round the table with his family, having a cup of tea, and giving them all a hug. It was an incredibly rewarding experience, and a huge relief for them.

    “I love my job – it’s a real privilege. Everyone is so driven, knowledgeable and supportive, and we have a wealth of experience to draw on within our team. Together, I feel like there’s no situation we couldn’t handle.”

    *This name has been changed to protect the client’s privacy

    Outreach at Christmas

    “Christmas is a very, very lonely time if you are living on the street. You’re sitting there with all of your memories of Christmas’ past, and you are totally on your own.

    “We try to be there for people, and make them feel included. We might help people to get bus or train tickets, so that they can reconnect with family, or hand out gifts that have been donated. Some of us head over to The Trinity Centre, where some clients spend Christmas, and say hello.”

    "It's that human thing of being there for someone."

    Outreach at Christmas

    We often have opportunities for people to volunteer with our outreach team. You can support us either as a:

    • First Response volunteer, helping busy outreach teams to locate people quickly, so that they have a more productive shift
    • Outreach volunteer, working with experienced outreach staff to locate and speak to people sleeping rough, and help them access the services they need

    For more information and to view our latest roles, click here.

    St Mungo’s joins call for increased funding for homeless charities

    St Mungo’s has signed a joint open letter to the Chancellor, calling for an increase in funding for homelessness services to prevent frontline service closures.

    The letter, signed by 32 homeless charities and shared with the i paper, urges Jeremy Hunt to increase funding for homelessness and rough sleeping services in line with inflation when he announces his Medium-Term Fiscal Statement at the end of this month.

    The charities warn that “recent history” shows that cuts to public spending will lead to an increase in homelessness, with government figures showing a 168 percent rise in rough sleeping between 2010 and 2017, during the government’s austerity agenda.

    The letter highlights that the rising cost of living will push more people into homelessness at a time when frontline services will be forced to scale back or close.

    A recent poll of 77 homeless charities carried out by the membership body Homeless Link found that 92 per cent were worried the rising cost of living would affect their ability to maintain service and support standards. One in four services agreed the cost of living crisis risked service closures.

    St Mungo’s Responds to Rishi Sunak becoming the leader of the Conservative Party

    Reacting to Rishi Sunak becoming the new leader of the Conservative Party, Rebecca Sycamore Interim Chief Executive of leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s, said:

    “During his previous campaign to become Prime Minister Mr Sunak stated he is ‘committed to ending rough sleeping once and for all by 2024… and to establishing a truly cross-government approach to address the drivers of rough sleeping’ and we look forward to working with him and his new Government to achieve this.

    “The Government’s new Rough Sleeping Strategy has been published which is an important step, but that plan must now be put into practice.

    “We are facing an incredibly difficult winter, with increasing numbers of people at risk of losing their homes because of the cost of living crisis.

    “When the Government delivers its Fiscal Statement it must commit the resources to prevent homelessness, as well as to supporting people who are already experiencing it.

    “Without such action we risk a huge surge in rough sleeping over the coming months.”

    My experience as an Outreach Volunteer

    We first met Chris when he was sleeping rough and needed help from us. After volunteering with us as an Outreach Volunteer in our Bournemouth & Poole Service, he now works full time for St Mungo’s.

    Chris has gone from strength to strength, and we wanted to share his story below.

    “As I was a client of St. Mungo’s, I used the pathways they provide to become a volunteer in the Outreach team in the Bournemouth & Poole branch. As soon as I got back on my feet, I wanted to give something back to St. Mungo’s as a thank you for all the support they have given me.

    As Outreach Volunteers, we start in the early mornings. Firstly, we will pick up and answer phone messages and any referrals from StreetLink, then we will hit the streets to search for people who are sleeping rough.

    Some days can be quiet and you won’t see any people, other days you might be in contact with 10 rough sleepers. No day is the same on the Outreach team. After we’ve been on the streets, we go back to the office and type up our notes from the shift onto our database system, Opal.

    I believe that as a volunteer with lived experience of rough sleeping, my experience has helped the Outreach team by giving them knowledge into how rough sleepers interact with the general public and authorities. I feel that my role also has a positive impact on the staff’s sense of self worth. It’s an intense and emotional job and it can feel like there are a lot of failures. However, there are also many successes and when that does happen, I try and shout about them, so that they know that they’re doing a stellar job.

    The initial challenge as an Outreach Volunteer is the engagement with the people we meet on the street because some of them might have trust issues with authorities. Another challenge is encouraging the clients into getting the help that they need. I empathise with this since I had my own trust issues when I was on the streets.

    One time I was on a winter shift with the Outreach team, it was freezing cold, and we were trying to contact a man who had buried himself deeply into a shelter he had built himself. He wasn’t engaging with us. We carried on for a while, buying him coffees and trying to chat to him, but to no avail. He had said to us ‘go away, nobody cares.’ This is when I stepped in and told him that I understood his feelings and I then said ‘…but it’s 4 o’clock in the morning, it’s freezing cold and I’m a volunteer, of course I care otherwise I wouldn’t be here! All we want is to just do a welfare check. So, please just show us your face, tell us who you are, and tell us that you’re ok.’ After I said this, he finally trusted us and allowed us to do a welfare check which almost brought a tear to my eye! This experience will stick with me forever.

    The rewards of the Outreach Volunteer role are seeing that I have helped someone in some way take their first steps out of homelessness. When I first find somebody, they think there’s no hope, but we take them on to other St. Mungo’s services and we give them that little bit of hope to start rebuilding their lives. That’s the only reward I need.

    This volunteer role has massively improved my sense of self-worth and has given me purpose…so much so that I applied for a full time Outreach role, and I got it!

    I have felt supported by the whole of St Mungo’s 100%. I can be shy in some ways, but they have made me feel so welcomed and comfortable in the office.

    The volunteer services team have supported me through everything and have always been there to answer any questions, even if it’s as simple as asking which button I press! I’m also impressed by all of the courses and training that St. Mungo’s provide for their volunteers.

    If you want to volunteer you need to be open minded, and be prepared for failure (you can’t help the world!). Don’t beat yourself up about it and don’t take things personally – a lot of people sleeping rough have a bad history with authorities and may have trust issues.

    My advice for those currently supported by St Mungo’s looking to volunteer is firstly, make sure you can take on this responsibility and make sure you’re putting yourself first. If you’re only just at the beginning of your pathway, I don’t think volunteering is for you…yet! Keep working on yourself and your surroundings first and when you’re firmly on your feet, sign up to volunteer.

    My dream was to become a full-time Outreach Worker for St. Mungo’s…and I got it! So, my hopes for the future, is to be the best ground level outreach worker I can be. If there are 10 levels of being an Outreach Worker, I want to be 11.”

    St Mungo’s to expand vital services for rough sleepers and homeless couples in Reading

    More support will soon be available to people sleeping rough and couples who are homeless in Reading, thanks to leading homelessness charity, St Mungo’s and Reading Borough Council.

    The new ‘Housing First and Complex Couples Move on Support’ service will help couples who have experienced homelessness and struggled to stay in long term accommodation, find and keep a home, together.

    It is the first time that a dedicated couple’s service has been run in the town.

    St Mungo’s will also be expanding its outreach service in the town which supports people sleeping rough, and hope to see the number of people living on the streets fall as a result.

    Both services, run in partnership with the Council, will operate for three years from late 2022 to 2025.

    Helen Denyer, Regional Director for St Mungo’s, said:

    “We are really pleased we will be providing these important services, particularly as the cost of living crisis is putting more people in a vulnerable position and at risk of potential homelessness.

    “It is especially exciting for us to be running this innovative couple’s Housing First service, alongside support for vulnerable individuals. Our aim is to help people recover from homelessness and find a stable place to live and call home, and it is only right that couples who are suitable for Housing First and want to live together have suitable accommodation available.

    “And to be able to extend our vital outreach provision is an extremely positive step towards ending homelessness in Reading. Our specialist teams are out every day right where they are needed, helping to make every night someone’s last on the streets. The partnership with Reading Council means we can continue doing this for years to come, helping more people move off the streets for good.”

    St Mungo’s has been a leading homelessness service provider in Reading for many years, operating street outreach support as well as supported accommodation, the pioneering modular homes at Caversham Road and a specialist women’s service, the Nova Project.

    Cllr Ellie Emberson, Lead Member for Housing at Reading Borough Council, said:

    “Reading Council has a proven track record of supporting homelessness residents in the town. We know a real difference can be made with a partnership approach and have effectively worked alongside our charity partner St Mungo’s for a number of years. We’re pleased to extend our ongoing support of homelessness projects in the Borough and specifically, working with St Mungo’s to help support those most in need, as we have done already with initiatives such as the Caversham Road modular homes project which provides 40 former rough sleepers with their own home alongside round the clock support provided by St Mungo’s.”

    The expanded Street Population Outreach Team (SPOT) will provide more flexible support and the addition of an ‘in-reach’ function for clients after they have successfully moved away from the streets to prevent recurring episodes of rough sleeping.

    There will also be more emphasis on preventing homelessness in the first instance, with tenancy support for vulnerable people and those at risk of losing their home.

    The Housing First service will follow the same model that has been successfully implemented in other regions across England, including London, Oxford, Brighton and Bournemouth, which St Mungo’s has been at the forefront of.

    Housing First provides a tenancy first, followed by intensive and tailored support as an effective long-term solution for people recovering from homelessness. The specialist focus on support for couples is an innovative approach being taken in Reading.

    The new services mark a further move toward homelessness prevention and recovery as opposed to late-stage intervention, a key part of Reading Borough Council’s Preventing Homelessness Strategy.

    Funding for these services has come from the UK Government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) as part of the Rough Sleeping Initiative (RSI) funding stream awarded to local councils.

    St Mungo’s and other leading housing and homelessness organisations come together for Homes for Cathy National Conference

    Leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s joined other influential figures from the homelessness and housing sectors at the Homes for Cathy’s national conference.

    St Mungo’s interim Chief Executive Rebecca Sycamore was asked to take part in one of the main panel discussions at the conference. She was joined by South Yorkshire Housing Association and BCHA.

    The panel discussed a range of topics including supported housing and move on support and took questions from the in-person delegates.

    Ms Sycamore detailed St Mungo’s approach highlighting its focus on providing reflective practise and offering psychological support in an innovative way in an informed environment.

    Speaking after the event, which was held on World Homeless Day (10 October 2022), she said: “It was great to back at an in-person event and have the chance to take part in such an engaging and informative panel event, and to be able to share our learning and approach to supported housing.

    “Within the sector we have so much experience, skill and good practice and it nice to come together to listen to and learn from each other. We are grateful to Homes for Cathy for organising the event and for inviting St Mungo’s to take part.”

    Other key guests included the Chair of the Kerslake Commission on Homlessness and Rough Sleeping Lord Bob Kerslake.

    He provided the keynote speech during which he detailed The Commission’s latest report and its updated recommendations focused on the current cost of living crisis, saying:

    “There has been lots of progress on the rough sleeping strategy but we have to be realistic that everything being done risks being overwhelmed by the current crisis.

    Other presenters on the day included Crisis, the National Housing Federation, Hightown Housing Association and local councils.

    Homes for Cathy is a national group of housing associations, charities, and local authorities working together to end homelessness.

    National Coming Out Day

    Chris, St Mungo’s LGBTQIA+ Diversity Network Co-ordinator shares his thoughts on why National Coming Out Day still matters in 2022.

    “Happily bouncing on a trampoline with my best friend, 10 year old me decided to share something which had been playing through my mind for a while. A scary and confusing puzzle which I needed help figuring out. I knew I was stepping into dark and taboo waters by discussing it, but I trusted my friend to help me with this perplexing puzzle. “Elli, I like looking at men and I don’t know what that means” I mutter, immediately regretting revealing the puzzle to her. She asked what I meant but I quickly dismissed it, saying I was only joking and to forget about it. 10 year old me was not ready yet, so I shelved the puzzle and locked it away.

    Fast forward four years, after much time surfing the internet, which gave me loads of supportive material and the opportunity to meet people who also had the same puzzle, I finally decided to solve it. I stormed into school, approached my friend shaking and excited blurting out: “I’m pretty sure I’m gay.” I was smiling, I felt relief, and I felt nervous. They immediately screamed and hugged me, also sharing they were bi and welcoming me to the club. “This is fantastic,” I thought. “I feel amazing! I want to tell someone else”. By the end of the day I had told nearly everyone I was close to, and the puzzle had finally been solved. It’s been over a decade now where I’ve lived my truest self.

    I came out early in my teen years, and at the time it was quite rare for someone to come out so young (I was ironically coined the “Gay Lord” by other closeted gays in my school year because of it). Thanks to the support I found online, it allowed me to find the courage to reveal my sexuality in a heteronormative society. That’s why National Coming Out Day is so important: Support.

    National Coming Out Day was established in 1988 by American activists Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary. They didn’t want to respond to anti-LGBTQIA+ opinions and views with defensiveness and negativity, so instead they chose to promote positivity and support by creating the day which helped thousands be their authentic selves. The purpose of the day is not to pressure people into coming out, or to shame those who haven’t. The day is there to promote support, awareness, celebrations and the beauty of being your true self.

    Being in the closet is a scary and lonely experience, where the thought of coming out brings anxiety that you’ll be rejected by everyone. The day is important for allowing those individuals who feel locked away to access support and find the courage to be their true self. While coming out can be daunting and scary, it can also be the first time that LGBTQ+ individuals are able to be truly open with the people closest to them.

    National Coming Out Day is also important not just for those in the LGBTQIA+ community, but also for those who are cisgender and/or heterosexual. It promotes and raises awareness to those not in the community and gives them the opportunity to support those who are coming out.

    Is coming out still necessary? Some might say the world is a much more accepting place nowadays. Although it’s somewhat true that society is becoming more accepting, it is far from perfect. ‘Coming Out’ also isn’t just for homosexual cis men like me who have fortunately had a somewhat easy experience. It includes everyone else under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, large sections of which are still not as widely accepted. Each experience is unique and subjective and all are celebrated under National Coming Out Day.

    At St Mungo’s we are fortunate to have the LGBTQIA+ Diversity Network and many other services to offer support for those who need it. It allows us to create a community of acceptance and belonging within the workplace, which is exactly what National Coming Out Day encourages and promotes. This is why the LGBTQIA+ Diversity Network are hosting a “Human Library” of coming out stories on 11 October 2022, to mark and celebrate the day. By sharing our stories it can help strengthen our belonging in the workplace whilst also giving the opportunity to inspire those who potentially need it.”

    World Homeless Day – Making it someone’s last night on the streets

    Monday 10 October is World Homeless Day – a day which highlights the issue of homelessness and rough sleeping, and to encourage governments and organisations worldwide to take action. At St Mungo’s, our ambition is to make it the last night on the streets for as many people experiencing homelessness as we can.

    Our Last Night on the Streets winter campaign shows the realities and dangers of sleeping rough during the winter months. At St Mungo’s, we work every day and every night, to help people away from the streets and into a safe and warm place they can call home. We’ve used actors in our public campaign but the stories it’s telling are very much real. We hear first-hand how the people we support experience violence and fear when sleeping rough.


    It was very important to us that the experiences of the people we support were reflected in our campaign. We spoke to people we have supported into accommodation and recovery to talk about how it felt to know that it was their own last night on the streets.

    Sam’s story:

    Sam, who moved from Manchester to London in 2007 after being kicked out of his home, found himself sleeping rough. Since working with St Mungo’s, he now lives in his own flat and works as an apprentice:

    “That first night on the streets was awful, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. All I had was a blanket and it was really cold. I was awake most of the night – afraid of being stabbed or something.

    After eight months of sleeping rough, an outreach worker told me she’d got me a bed in a hostel and a grant for some new clothes. That first night inside was the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had – going from concrete to a mattress, I slept like a baby.

    From there I moved into a flat where I was supported by St Mungo’s. They treated me as a human. They’d encourage me to come out of my flat to go to events. I could talk to them about anything, and have a laugh and a joke. They helped me get my spark back.

    In May I started my new job. I’m an apprentice at the Department for Work and Pensions, assisting a senior member of staff. The Job Centre put me forward for it but I never thought I would get it. I beat 192 people to the job – I couldn’t believe it when they told me. Now that I have a proper salary I might get a new car, and move into a bigger flat in a few months too. It all feels a bit surreal.”

    At St Mungo’s, we work hard at every stage of the journey to support people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. And while our public campaign focuses mainly on our frontline rough sleeping services, everyone at St Mungo’s – whatever their job – are dedicated to ending homelessness, for good.

    So, over the coming months, we’ll be sharing stories from across St Mungo’s and how we all work to make it someone’s last night on the streets.

    Help make tonight someone’s last night on streets, donate today.

Go back