New homelessness boards

    Administrative tinkering or an opportunity to end rough sleeping for good?

    Photo of Rory Weal, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer
    Rory Weal, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer

    Last week the Government finished its first stage of consultation on a shake up to local authority structures for tackling homelessness. Changes to statutory structures may not be something that gets the heart racing, but when it comes to delivering the changes and funding needed to end rough sleeping for good, they could have a key role to play, writes Rory Weal, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer for St Mungo’s.

    Rough sleeping – the most dangerous form of homelessness – has risen by 165% since 2010. This is the result of spiralling housing costs, increasing insecurity for private renters and cuts to services that prevent homelessness – all problems that require national Government to act.

    And yet, it is actually local authorities who are charged with the primary day-to-day responsibility for tackling homelessness. Since the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA) came into force last year, this responsibility has expanded to include providing advice and support to anyone at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness.

    What are Homelessness Reduction Boards?

    The latest government proposal – to create Homelessness Reduction Boards in local authorities – builds on the positive momentum achieved by the HRA, and the Rough Sleeping Strategy, to get a grip on the growing homelessness crisis in England. The proposal is an attempt to ensure all relevant public services and agencies step up as members of these new boards, and they are held to account for their part in preventing and reducing homelessness and rough sleeping.

    So far so good. But as many of us know, central Government hasn’t made this job easy for local authorities of late.

    A challenging backdrop

    Recent research from St Mungo’s and Homeless Link, published last month, shows that local authority spending on services for single homeless people fell by 53% between 2008-09 to 2017-18. This drop is the result of cuts in funding from central government, particularly impacting ‘Supporting People’ services, which focus on helping people to avoid and escape homelessness. Add to this the wider issues of a lack of social rented housing, unaffordability and instability in the private rented sector, and welfare reforms, and we see a dangerous combination of factors which have increased individuals’ vulnerability to homelessness.

    So with such a challenging backdrop, how can an administrative change really be expected to deliver the impact required to end rough sleeping? The short answer is that on its own, it can’t.

    But there are a couple of reasons why this is a more than worthwhile exercise:

    • Firstly, because at the local level there is a huge variation in the way any strategic response to homelessness is developed, implemented and monitored. Sometimes this means that elements of the ‘system’, such as health services, are failing to play their part.
    • Secondly, because we believe these new structures could be the vehicles for central Government to deliver the resources councils need to tackle the problem.

    Investing the funding that’s needed

    We believe Homelessness Reduction Boards – or a similar set-up where good oversight and accountability is assured – should provide Government with the confidence to invest the extra £1 billion in homelessness services that we know is needed. Having mandatory structures closely scrutinising what services deliver, key partners such as the NHS, prisons and children’s services working to prevent homelessness, and collecting data to demonstrate and respond to this, should satisfy Government that each pound will be spent effectively.

    The jury is still out on the impact this could have. As always the devil will be in the detail. The principles of these new Boards, however, seem sound and provide an opportunity to secure the funding desperately needed for homelessness services.

    This shouldn’t avert our focus from the other vital changes required – including building more social homes and improving private renting. Only when these solutions come together will we see everyone have a home for good, and a country in which no one faces the injustice of sleeping rough.

    Read our full response to the consultation.

    Should we talk about death?

    Palliative Care

    Our Palliative Care Coordinator Andy Knee poses this important question and highlights the innovative ways our Palliative Care Service is supporting clients who are at risk of death or in need of bereavement support.

    Should we talk about death? In St Mungo’s Palliative Care team, we think the simple answer to this question is yes.

    Death is something that affects us all, that does not discriminate against gender, race, sexuality, culture, or religion. Many of us are fortunate to talk about death and our wishes with loved ones. But what if you don’t have a home? And what if you don’t have family or loved ones to have these conversations with?

    This is a sad reality for lots of people who experience homelessness. A reality where many of their deaths will be preventable, undignified and untimely, with no planning for their wishes, and sadly many will be forgotten.

    In 2017 there were an estimated 597 deaths of homeless people in England and Wales, which represents a 24% increase since 2013. The NHS has recently reported a rise in homeless patients returning to the streets with many observing a surge in serious illnesses in the past decade such as respiratory conditions, liver disease, and cancer. Without someone to be their voice and their advocate, many individuals will be trapped in a harmful cycle of being admitted to hospital and discharged to the streets. This is something we can change.

    Dying Matters Week 2019

    ‘Are we ready?’ is the poignant theme of this year’s Dying Matters Week, which helps to raise awareness around this issue. At the end of 2018 we responded to the increase in homeless deaths and continue to pave the way in making change for people experiencing homelessness. We know the importance of providing end of life care and support to our clients, and we are using creative and innovative new ways to provide this service.

    Our Palliative Care Service

    To mark Dying Matters Week, we’re shining a light on our Palliative Care Service. This service is the only one of its kind in the homelessness sector and has benefited from dedicated funders over the last five years.

    The purpose of the Palliative Care Service is to coordinate a flexible and responsive care pathway to support clients who have a terminal prognosis or acute and potentially fatal health conditions, and to provide them with options that protect their quality of life. The service works to ensure that our clients can access healthcare and that we provide appropriate support to help them approach the end of their life with dignity and respect.

    We meet with local health services, lead change with research, and continue to develop tools and support structures for St Mungo’s. We’re also here to support staff across St Mungo’s to feel empowered and discuss death as openly as possible.

    Our aim is to ensure that everyone experiences a ‘good death’. We are also working to destigmatise this term, which holds so much power and importance.

    New Befriending Service

    This year the service has expanded to include our Palliative Care Volunteer Coordinator, and in June 2019, St Mungo’s will launch a new Befriending Service.

    The Befriending Service will serve to support clients that are at risk of death, or clients who need bereavement support for a recent or historical loss. In addition, the Befriending Service will support colleagues and teams around loss and bereavement, reinforcing our message: “you are not alone”.

    In response to the theme of Dying Matters Week – “Are we ready?” – St Mungo’s can proudly say “We are, and will continue to be.”

    Find our more about our Palliative Care Service.

    Creating change for women facing homelessness

    St Mungo’s has published a new three year ‘Women’s Strategy’ setting out how we plan to improve our services for women and influence policy on women’s homelessness. Our Women’s Strategy Manager Cat Glew introduces our approach.

    Five years ago St Mungo’s published our ground-breaking Rebuilding Shattered Lives research into women’s homelessness. We found that homelessness services are often designed with men in mind, and were often failing to support women effectively.

    Sadly, it remains the case that women facing homelessness are still at a disproportionate risk of harm from those they love and trust, alongside the existing dangers of homelessness. Since 2014 a growing body of evidence has highlighted the connections between women’s experiences of violence and abuse, poor physical and mental health, substance use and homelessness.

    According to the latest figures, 642 women sleep rough on any one night in England, up from 509 in 2016. Many more women are likely to be experiencing hidden homelessness – seeking shelter with abusive partners, squatting or sofa surfing with friends and family – so may be missing from the statistics.

    Women’s homelessness often occurs after prolonged experiences of trauma, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse by those closest to them. Violence and abuse are both a cause and consequence of women’s homelessness, with women experiencing further abuse, exploitation and violence while homeless.

    Women-only spaces are a matter of safety for many women. Despite this, just 7% of homelessness services in England offer women-only provision, according to data from Homeless Link.

    Our greatest challenge and our most important aim is to create an environment of physical and psychological safety for women in homelessness services. We’ll be working hard to make sure that each of our female clients has a safe place to live and has every reason to feel safe in our services.

    We know that funding for women-specific work is falling, but we also understand that our female clients cannot wait for the Government to prioritise women’s homelessness.

    As a homelessness charity, it is our responsibility to make sure that we are achieving the best possible outcomes with women, as well as men. We have made the decision to make women’s safety and women’s recovery a priority. Our new Women’s Strategy sets out some ambitious aims that will help us improve our practice and influence government policy.

    Our ambitions for the next three years include:

    • Offering women-only services and spaces as an option for all female clients, at every stage of their recovery
    • Supporting and equipping St Mungo’s staff to better recognise and respond to violence and abuse
    • Improving rough sleeping services so that they are even safer and more effective for women
    • Working with specialist agencies to offer individual support to women around domestic and sexual abuse

    There’s plenty to do, but I’m really looking forward to working with all our clients, staff and partners to make our ideas a reality. Listening to the ideas and experiences of St Mungo’s women is an amazing privilege and the very best part of my job. I hope that partners, politicians and the public will read our strategy and join us as we create change with women facing homelessness.

    Read our brand new women’s strategy here

    The value of apprentices at St Mungo’s

    In this blog to mark the end of National Apprenticeship Week, our Head of Volunteering, Apprenticeships and Placements, Iver Morgan, reflects on the value and skills that apprentices bring to St Mungo’s and a new Social Work Apprenticeship launching later this year.

    More than 200 people have successfully completed St Mungo’s award winning Apprenticeship Scheme, since it began more than a decade ago. With National Apprenticeship Week drawing to a close, I have been reflecting on the last ten years and thinking ahead to the launch of a new Apprenticeship later this year.

    Our Apprenticeship Scheme is for people who have lived experience of using support services. This could be that you have slept rough or have lived in a hostel, or you might have suffered from mental health issues or spent time in custody.

    Our Apprenticeships are 15 months long, where you work in placements across the organisation for five days a week. While 20% of your time will be geared towards learning, giving you time to train and study for qualifications. Our Apprenticeships are currently in either adult social care or business administration

    The scheme is a perfect opportunity to learn practical skills in the workplace whilst gaining a qualification and boosting your confidence. The qualifications are offered by Opps Development, a training provider, which tailors the support they offer to ensure it meets the needs and ambitions of our apprentices.

    Many of our apprentices have had a complex past and their own individual battles. Through our Apprenticeship Scheme, people are able to use their own lived experience to support others to achieve their goals.

    One of our current Social Care apprentices is Jack. Before he started he thought: “given my past I never thought I would ever be able to do the role I do.” Now, coming to the end of his qualification, Jack says: “I love the fact that I’m helping people get their life back on track. I wish I did this years ago!”

    When I look across the organisation, I see former apprentices throughout our services and central departments. Some are now deputy managers or managers, it gives me an immense sense of pride to see the journey they have been on. All of our apprentices bring huge value to our work, not just to clients but also to us as their colleagues. The best apprentices are the ones who ask questions. It helps create a learning cycle, so that staff can assess their work and continue to improve the positive impact our service can have for clients.

    That learning is important: supporting professionals and those in the wider community to understand the causes and consequences of homelessness is vital in helping our clients to recover.

    Another way of improving this understanding among professionals is through our student placement scheme, which involves 250 social work and nursing students every year working with our clients. These placements are a fantastic opportunity for students to gain first-hand experience of working with people with a mix of strengths, vulnerabilities and needs.

    The involvement of social workers at St Mungo’s can only ever be a positive. That’s why I am delighted that the Apprenticeship Standard for Social Work has been approved and we will be offering our first St Mungo’s Social Work Apprenticeship later this year. These three year Apprenticeships will be open to our staff who at the end will achieve an honours degree in social work. It will help our staff develop new skills and understanding but, more importantly, we know that these skills and expertise will help our clients to move on from homelessness and live fulfilling lives.

    Find out more about our Apprenticeship Scheme and how you can apply.

    Why I think everyone deserves a Home for Good

    Kevin, a former client of St Mungo’s, has been championing our Home for Good campaign and last week handed in an open letter to the Government signed by over 21,300 people. He explains what changes are needed to help people who have slept rough have a home for good.

    Rough sleeping has more than doubled since 2010. That’s a shocking fact. Why? Years of cuts to essential support services, spiralling housing costs and increasing insecurity for private renters.

    Something needs to give. That’s why I am championing St Mungo’s Home for Good campaign. Last week, I handed in my letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, James Brokenshire, with the signatures of over 21,300 campaigners who agree with me that the Government should be doing more to end rough sleeping permanently.

    I’m a former client of St Mungo’s

    Following the death of my mum when I was 12, I struggled with mental health and substance use. For years I didn’t have a stable home and stayed with partners or friends. I burnt a lot of bridges and became street homeless. It was a very dark time of my life.

    I was so far away from my authentic ‘me’ that I couldn’t see a way out. But I had a really good St Mungo’s caseworker who saw something in me. He told me that I didn’t have to live this way anymore. That’s when I started to find a bit of self-love, and while I still had some trouble along the way, it was the first time I could see an alternative.

    With the help of St Mungo’s and others, I was supported into a private rented flat, but what people do not realise is that just housing people does not solve the problem of homelessness.

    Just having a roof over your head isn’t enough

    Moving into your own place can be the hardest and scariest time for anyone. A lot of people need ongoing support; I needed ongoing support. Without the right help, things quickly spiralled out of control and I wound up back on the streets. It wasn’t until I got a place in social housing that things stabilised for me.

    Now I work with people experiencing homelessness every day, and I see the same issues I faced come up again and again. It’s hard being on this side of the fence, seeing people struggle and knowing that the money isn’t there for the help they need. So what needs to change?

    We need more social housing

    To start with, more housing must be made available to people with a history of sleeping rough, and these homes need to be affordable and for the long term. That’s why I’m asking the Government to build more social housing, with some of these new homes reserved for people who have slept rough. And why I’m asking for improvements to the private rented sector to make tenancies more stable and limit rent increases so that fewer people face eviction in the first place.

    We need more funding for support services

    There also needs to be guaranteed long-term funding for the support services people need to end their homelessness for good.

    Reintegration is the most important part of anybody’s journey out of homelessness, be it through social housing or private landlords. But reintegration requires ongoing support and trust in your caseworker. If you don’t have somebody there for you who’s consistent, regular and has your trust, is there any wonder that a large percentage of people are ending back on the street?

    But funding for support services has declined over recent years. Floating support services (support provided in someone’s home to help them manage their tenancy and to live independently) for example have been cut by more than 40% in London alone.

    It’s getting dangerous on the streets

    If I could say one thing to the Housing Secretary, it would be ‘open your eyes, it’s getting dangerous out there for a lot of people’. In 2017 almost 600 people died while living on the streets or in emergency accommodation. This has to stop.

    We came so close to ending rough sleeping ten years ago. The Government needs to act now to make sure that everyone can find, and keep, a home for good.

    Read more about the Home for Good campaign here.

    Tackling homelessness in Lisbon

    In summer 2018 Ed Addison, Case Coordinator for St Mungo’s project Street Impact London, took part in a two week long cultural exchange programme in the USA. Since then he has also been to Portugal to see how they approach street homelessness. Ed explains more about what he learned from Crescer, an organisation which has homeless and substance use outreach services in Lisbon.

    In my work in London, I see on a daily basis how the cycle of homelessness and drug use can be very hard for people to break out of. Using drugs can make people very sick and hard for them to address some basic needs, including housing. I wanted to see if I could learn a different way to support people who are using drugs and facing homelessness, and was fortunate to be able to spend three days with Crescer, which has staff offering substance misuse and homeless outreach services in Portugal’s capital, Lisbon.

    Minimising harm

    Throughout the 1990s Portugal had high rates of HIV and opiate related death, affecting all levels of society. Many people in Portugal knew a close friend or family member who was affected.

    In 2001 the government decriminalised the use of drugs and gave organisations like Crescer a platform to use a harm minimisation approach to address the issue. This kind of approach recognises that sometimes people will not be ready to make changes such as stopping their drinking or drug use completely, and helps people to minimise the risks to themselves and others.

    On my first day at Crescer I went out with the ‘E Uma Rua’ service in the east of the city. The team was made up of three psychologists, a nurse, a social worker and a psychiatrist. I watched as they talked to people on the streets, offering harm reduction advice, distributing kits meaning people could use drugs more safely and collecting used needles in a needle disposal bin. I was moved to see how the outreach workers offered support to individuals where they were, regardless of their situation. Those they spoke to seemed to hold them in high esteem and were willing to talk about their issues.

    Crescer work in cooperation with other services including a methadone van. Once people are registered, they are able to access a mobile service to receive their methadone prescriptions from a van. This serves the city seven days a week distributing methadone to 1,200 people at four locations throughout the day and is thought to be behind a reduction seen in drug related antisocial behaviour.

    The harm reduction approach means in Portugal, whilst there hasn’t necessarily been a decrease in the number of drug users, there has been a massive drop in cases of HIV, other blood born viruses and opiate related death.

    Housing First

    Crescer also offers a Housing First service – ‘E Uma Casa’ – which provides people who have slept rough for long periods, and also have mental and physical health needs, with a home. Their approach is multi-disciplinary, meaning lots of different agencies work together to provide support. The team currently supports 36 people and is made up of psychologists, a social worker, a nurse, a psychiatrist and a peer advocate.

    The team establishes a relationship with a person living on the street over a number of months and offers them a house. Once they have a home, the team put support plans in place, conducting home visits and offering psychological support, to help manage their drug use, mental health needs and encourage development of independent living skills.

    The team also works to empower the local community to offer support to those housed in the project. For example, I saw people from a local convenience store looking after a person with mental health needs and dispensing their daily medication.

    The challenge of ending rough sleeping

    I would like to say a big thank you to Crescer for hosting me for three days and giving me a fantastic insight in to the amazing work they are doing in Lisbon.

    In London I cycle up to 100 miles a week as part of my job, finding and working with people who are sleeping rough. That equates to a lot of thinking time!

    I’ve been inspired by some of the innovations I saw, particularly those which take specialists to the streets to meet people where they are. In Portugal, working together in an interdisciplinary way is reducing harm, and linking people who are using drugs on the street with other services that could help them leave homelessness behind such as sorting out benefit claims and mental health support.

    What I have seen in Portugal convinced me that treating the issue of drug use as a matter of public health is effective. I believe it is time for the UK to follow suit and recognise the severe health crisis that is occurring on our streets, in our communities and in our prisons, often due to drug dependency and other complex interrelated factors such as trauma, and mental health issues.

    We are starting to see more funding for multi-disciplinary approaches to supporting people who are homeless. I believe introducing innovative ideas could improve health outcomes for people who are sleeping rough and using drugs, helping to reduce drug related antisocial behaviour, the number of people needing ambulance services and the number of drug related deaths.

    Find out more about our service models, including Housing First and Social Impact Bonds.

    How to keep your New Year’s resolution

    New Year’s resolutions are easy to make, but often difficult to keep. In this blog, our Head of Volunteering, Iver Morgan, reflects on the challenges and rewards that volunteering at St Mungo’s can bring and highlights the difference you could make to the lives of people experiencing homelessness this year.

    It’s that time of year where many of us are making New Year’s resolutions, some of which will be easier to keep than others. For a lot of people that may be learning to do something new or giving something back.

    At the end of 2018, I was reflecting on just that – how much our volunteers give, the skills they bring with them and the new ones they learn. They make a real difference, on a daily basis, to the lives of people experiencing homelessness. All of our volunteers, whatever their role and whether they have just joined us or are one of our long standing volunteers, play an important role in the fight to end homelessness.

    Through donating their time, skills and experience – and doing so in a compassionate and sensitive way – volunteers help demonstrate to our clients that they are not alone, that there is a future away from homelessness and that they can rebuild their lives.

    Volunteering at St Mungo’s can be challenging, it’s often complex and each day is never the same, but our volunteers always tell us how rewarding they find it. We know their role makes a huge difference to our clients – helping to reduce isolation, while increasing their confidence and helping them to learn new skills.

    But don’t take my word for it. Hannah is part of First Response – our innovative new scheme for volunteers to help our Outreach teams find people who are sleeping rough. Here’s what she says about her role:

    “I started volunteering with St Mungo’s because I wanted to use some of my spare time to get involved in my community and make a difference to people’s lives. Through First Response, I can see the direct impact that volunteers have, supporting outreach teams and helping to reduce the devastating levels of homelessness across London. It’s an issue that’s really important to me, so having the opportunity to work with other people who feel passionate about reducing homelessness through volunteering at St Mungo’s is a real privilege.”

    So if you’re thinking about how to keep your new year’s resolutions, why not have a look at volunteering with us. Be that holder of hope for people that are struggling to see it themselves.

    We have a variety of volunteering opportunities available across London and the South of England. Volunteering with us, will give you the opportunity to use your time and skills to make a difference to the lives of people experiencing homelessness.

    Find out more about volunteering at St Mungo’s and view our current volunteering vacancies.

    St Mungo’s takes #16Days of Action against domestic abuse

    Between Sunday 25 November and Monday 10 December we took part in the global 16 Days of Action against domestic abuse. Cat Glew, Women’s Strategy Manager, and Tee Falcone, St Mungo’s volunteer, reflect on a packed 16 days for St Mungo’s.

    Cat Glew, St Mungo’s Women’s Strategy Manager:

    Thousands of people live in our accommodation or work for St Mungo’s. We know that many of our colleagues and clients are affected by domestic abuse, having either experienced it themselves, or witnessed the effect it has on others.

    Noone should have to deal with domestic abuse alone. This year we wanted our involvement in the global 16 Days of Action against domestic abuse to be bigger and better than ever, to let our clients and staff know where they can turn for support. Our creative staff and clients rose to the challenge, hosting more than 16 events across London, Bristol and beyond.

    We marked White Ribbon Day on 25 November, with staff and clients wearing the ribbon and making the pledge never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.

    And throughout the 16 Days of Action we celebrated the Blooming Strong campaign from Standing Together against Domestic Violence. The campaign is a beautiful opportunity to celebrate the emotional strength and resilience of women by presenting a flower to women living and working within our services. This small act celebrates and recognises their strength and demonstrates to women who have experienced or who are experiencing violence how Blooming Strong they are.

    The 16 Days are just the start; we’ve signed the Make A Stand pledge from the Chartered Institute of Housing to show that domestic abuse is a priority for us all year round. Developed in partnership with Women’s Aid and the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance, the pledge is an ongoing commitment to support all our staff and clients experiencing domestic abuse.

    We’ve also formed a new task and finish group, bringing together colleagues from across St Mungo’s to make sure we are offering the best possible support for our clients and staff.

    Tee Falcone, St Mungo’s Domestic Abuse Task and Finish Group:

    The 16 Days of Action is an important time to raise awareness and a time for reflection and positive changes, for women to continue to see and believe in a brighter future ahead.

    I prefer not to use the word ‘victim’ of domestic abuse, it portrays an image of weakness and vulnerability. I prefer the word ‘survivor’ or ‘conqueror’ – what a beautiful image of strength and resilience.

    Being strong as a survivor means working towards a stronger mindset. It means striving to overcome the past and gain full concentration for the future, taking a closer look at those around you – do they have your best interests at heart? Listen to your instincts – they are rarely wrong.

    The first vital part of support for women following on from domestic abuse actually comes from within, when a woman admits she’s had enough. This is your healing period to regain your sense of self. Loving yourself is important; put yourself first. Admit to yourself what you have had enough – you will know – and seek help when you need it.

    But with any therapy or support, there needs to be a firm cut off point in order to not become dependent on your therapist or other members of the group. Now is your time to walk your own path, how exciting.

    A heightened level of hyperawareness is common with survivors of domestic abuse. It can be difficult to trust again, but in time it will become easier. Be kind to yourself – you’ve been through enough.

    You will find yourself reading signs of unhealthy relationships much better. Slowly, and in time, you will feel energised to put yourself first and not to accept any form of controlling behaviour.

    Stay focused; life is beautiful and so are you.

    If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, you can contact a specialist organisation for support:

    National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247
    National LGBT+ Helpline: 0800 999 5428
    Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327

    A Home for Good: what it will take to end rough sleeping

    This week we launched a new report at a reception in Parliament as part of our Home for Good campaign. St Mungo’s Chief Executive Howard Sinclair outlined to MPs, peers, partners and clients attending what we believe it will take to end rough sleeping. This is his speech.

    Thank you to everyone for coming, especially to our speakers and our host Bob Blackman MP. And a special thanks to Kevin who has already done so much to support our Home for Good campaign. Your story and enthusiasm has truly inspired us to be ambitious about the changes we want to see.

    And our Home for Good campaign is ambitious. It’s a campaign for more social housing, a more secure and affordable private rented sector and a new programme of long-term, guaranteed funding for homelessness services.

    These are the changes needed to put an end to rough sleeping. An end to people sleeping outside, exposed not just to the elements, but to violence and abuse, falling quickly into a state of despair and desperation that comes from not having a safe place to call home.

    St Mungo’s services work to end rough sleeping for these very individuals every day by:

    • Getting a roof over people’s heads
    • Supporting them to address the issues that led to homelessness
    • Helping them to make a journey of recovery from the damage rough sleeping causes
    • And ultimately helping them to rebuild their lives.

    Kevin’s story, and the stories of many others, encourage us to be ambitious for individuals knowing that with the right help, rough sleeping is not inevitable.

    The tragic return of mass rough sleeping in recent years is something no one should take lightly. Today more people than ever are not only stuck on the streets, but are dying on the streets. Since our reception last year, at least 449 people are known to have died while sleeping rough or in emergency accommodation.

    The Government has been clear about its ambition of halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it altogether by 2027, and it is encouraging to see the efforts made since our last Parliamentary reception to start work on achieving that ambition. For the opposition parties, as well, rough sleeping and homelessness is high on their agenda.

    The publication of the Government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy, including the funding for the Rough Sleeping Initiative, are very welcome steps. We know the Rough Sleeping Initiative money is making a difference in this respect. But as Kevin’s story shows, the right accommodation and support also need to be in place to help people stay off the streets.

    The report we’re launching today highlights the long term value of floating support, which is not always visible like a hostel in the local community, but does a vital job of helping people hang onto their homes.

    Our report also presents new evidence that funding for services which prevent and reduce homelessness is slipping away at a much faster rate than the Government is topping it up. The report includes new research showing an 18% reduction in funding for floating support services over the past five years in the areas with the highest numbers of people sleeping rough, in London the funding has reduced by 41%.

    And it’s an ever greater challenge in many towns and cities to help people find the secure, safe and affordable housing they need in order to rebuild their lives away from the street for good.

    Ten years of steady dis-investment in services, in housing and in support has lead us to this position, we know how to sort it but we cannot do it overnight.

    The short term Rough Sleeping Initiative is welcome – but it is ‘short term’. Next year’s Spending Review presents a real opportunity to inject some certainty into the Government’s plan to end rough sleeping. It is an opportunity to tackle the structural factors driving more people onto the street.

    I am clear that the number of people sleeping rough tonight across the country is a national disaster. 4,751 people on any one night, 4,751 people without any roof over their head. And in a disaster situation we would expect an emergency relief response, as well as a coming together of public authorities and civil society to provide the long-term solution. We would also expect, that as a society, we would strive to ensure it never happened again.

    The Government has rightly focused on the emergency response, but we also need the focus on long-term housing and support, and on preventing people sleeping rough in the first place.

    That’s why our Home for Good campaign makes three asks; more social housing, including specialist housing specifically for people moving on from rough sleeping; a more secure and affordable private rented sector; and a new programme of long-term, guaranteed funding for homelessness services.

    That’s what it will take to end rough sleeping and that’s what we look forward to seeing as the next steps to achieve the Government’s ambition to end rough sleeping for good.

    Support our Home for Good campaign to end rough sleeping for good.



    Steve Douglas, CBE

    • Role: Chief Executive
    • Email:

    Whilst numbers of people rough sleeping rise, essential services are being cut

    This week at the Houses of Parliament St Mungo’s released a research report highlighting the role of essential support services in ending rough sleeping. Robyn Casey, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer, reflects on the findings and how the Government can take action to ensure everyone can have a Home for Good.

    Last month, homelessness outreach teams and volunteers went out across England to count the number of people who were sleeping rough for official Government figures. Over recent years, these counts have revealed shocking trends as between 2010 and 2017 the number of people sleeping rough had more than doubled.

    At St Mungo’s we’re working towards a time when there is no one sleeping rough, but know that there is much more work to be done to end rough sleeping for good.

    Everyone deserves a home for good

    The Government has promised to end rough sleeping by 2027, and our Home for Good campaign outlines the steps they need to take to achieve this.

    For starters, it is crucial that more housing is available to people with a history of sleeping rough, and that these homes are affordable, long term options.

    That’s why we’re calling on the Government to embark on an ambitious programme to build more social housing, with some of these new homes reserved for people who have slept rough. Reform of the private rented sector – including making tenancies more stable and limiting rent increases – will also mean that fewer people will face eviction from their home.

    However, we know that it takes more than a roof over someone’s head to end homelessness. Some people need additional support to keep their home for good. At St Mungo’s, we work with people who have a range of support needs. For example, in 2017-18, 50% of people seen sleeping rough in London had a mental health problem, 43% had a problem with alcohol use and 40% had a problem with drug use.

    Many others who have a history of sleeping rough struggle to manage a tenancy without support to pay their bills, speak to their landlord, or manage a welfare claim. Floating support services can help them to do this.

    Floating support provides the help that people need

    Floating support workers help stop people returning to the streets by providing support to people in their own home. This support is tailored to the person but can involve helping people to keep on top of their bills and control their finances; manage mental health or substance use problems; navigate the benefits system; or get into training or employment.

    Evidence shows these types of services both reduce the amount of rent arrears that people with a history of homelessness can build up and the number of people who are taken to court over rent arrears. They can also help people with a long history of rough sleeping to get, and keep, their homes.

    But unfortunately, funding for these services has declined dramatically over the past five years. At the same time, rough sleeping has hugely increased.

    Funding cuts have put these services at risk of closure

    We asked local authorities for details about their floating support contracts between 2013 and 2018. Shockingly, we found that funding for these services had decreased by an average of 18% across England. The funding cuts were even starker at a regional level, with a 41% reducation across London and 26% across the South East. Tellingly, these are the areas with the highest proportion of people sleeping rough in England.

    We also looked at funding for specialist services. Whilst funding for generic services, which anyone can access, increased by 5% over the five year period, specialist services for people with mental health needs declined by 44% and for ex-offenders declined by an astonishing 88%.

    These specialist services are important because floating support workers are experts in helping people to access the right healthcare for them and in advising them of their rights. Without this expertise, some people will fall through the cracks.

    Homelessness services, including floating support, need long term guaranteed funding to ensure they are available to everyone who needs them. But for too long these services have faced funding cuts and insecurity.

    Getting everyone the support they need

    Our Home for Good campaign is calling on the government to put an end to rough sleeping by ensuring that everyone gets the long term housing and support they need to rebuild their lives.

    The Government can make this happen by urgently reviewing the decline in funding for housing related support services, including floating support, and committing to guaranteeing funding for local authorities to plan and commission homelessness services. They should also ensure that local homelessness and rough sleeping strategies include a focus on ongoing support, including floating support services.

    Help us end rough sleeping for good by signing Kevin’s open letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

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