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.”

    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.

    Finding acceptance and understanding in the workplace

    Bi-Visibility day is the 23rd of September 2022. At St Mungo’s, we pride ourselves on inclusion, whether this is providing safe spaces for our clients in the LGBTQIA+ community, or access to our diversity networks for staff. Here, Liz from our Communications team discusses her experience of working at St Mungo’s.

    “Research from Stonewall shows that 31% of bisexual people having been insulted or harassed for their identity, and more broadly, people who identify as LGBTQIA+ are much more likely to experience homelessness at some point in their lives. With this in mind, creating safe spaces and having an empathetic culture is so important to everything we do.

    At St Mungo’s, we make sure our services are informed about LGBTQIA+ issues, and are welcoming to everyone regardless of sexual or gender identity. When referring people to our different kinds of accommodation, we assess whether that environment is right for them, including any support needs they might have, and what will make them feel most safe.

    This understanding and acceptance also extends to our colleagues. When I first joined St Mungo’s, I was provided information about our diversity networks as part of my induction. Not only were we able to join the networks we identified with the most (roughly 10% of staff at St Mungo’s identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community), but simple things, like having posters that encourage you to use the toilets that best fit your gender identity, and information about our workplace supporter scheme for anything and everything you might need, made for an incredibly welcoming environment.

    I’d never been part of an organisation that so openly celebrated the diversity of its staff in every way. There’s a school of thought that you should always be authentic to yourself, and it was this environment that helped me to feel that I was able to be entirely myself around my colleagues for the first time in any job I’ve ever had.

    The acceptance that I’ve seen and received at St Mungo’s has been so important. The meetings for our LGBTQIA+ network that I’ve attended have been so friendly and welcoming, and I’ve even been able to support on some projects for Pride. I’ve met people in the network who I’ve then come across in other areas of the organisation, meaning I already have a connection, which has been really valuable, particularly during the pandemic.

    There is an incredible commitment to diversity and inclusion at St Mungo’s, not just for staff but also for the people we support. And so, this Bisexual Awareness Week, it’s important to take a moment to celebrate everything we’re doing to make people feel safe, valued and understood.”

    Find out more about Diversity and Inclusion at St Mungo’s.

    How can we combat the cost of living crisis?

    We’ve all been feeling the pinch lately as the cost of living increases. Energy bills have risen by as much as 54%, whilst inflation is at a record breaking 30 year high, and still going up.

    We know this is going to have a huge impact on all of us, especially our clients. Many of the people we work with rely on benefits, meaning they’ll also be affected by changes to Universal Credit payments and more benefit sanctions.

    For those living independently, keeping on top of rent, utility bills, tax and other expenses could be overwhelming without the right support.

    That’s why St Mungo’s is working hard to assist clients with things like accessing benefits, applying for grants to reduce bills, and connecting with food banks, plus much more.

    In short, we’re doing everything we can to prevent anyone from returning to the streets.

    Clare is the Advice Services Manager on our Welfare Rights team, who specialise in supporting clients with benefits. She explains how they’ve been helping:

    What does your role at St Mungo’s involve?

    “I manage our Welfare Rights team, which is made up of specialists who are here to help anyone with a question about their welfare rights. We run an email advice line which clients, staff and volunteers can use to get in touch, and a one to one service for those who need extra help. We also work closely with the Rents team to try to resolve any problems relating to rent arrears (when someone falls behind on their rent payments) – the list goes on!”

    How do you think the cost of living crisis is going to impact St Mungo’s clients?

    “People living in services like Real Lettings, where they have a tenancy with bills and council tax – I think they are going to really feel the impact. I recently heard of a young client who is struggling with his tenancy. He’s a care leaver and, because of his age, he receives around £250 a month in Universal Credit. Now, he’s facing a gas bill of about £150 – more than half his monthly income. It’s just not sustainable.”

    The passion of a freelance gardener: Oriana’s story

    Joining St Mungo’s Putting Down Roots project helped Oriana to discover a new passion for gardening. Now, she’s forging a rewarding career as a freelance gardener. She explains why she’s so excited about the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

    “The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is great opportunity for everyone at Putting Down Roots. I’ve never been and I’m very excited to take part.

    “I came across Putting Down Roots for the first time in 2014. I took part in the project for one year and during that time, I learned the basics of horticulture. More importantly, I discovered my passion for nature and the benefits of working with the living plants that are so precious for everyone to survive.

    “Since then I have embarked on a gardening career path. At first I worked as an employee for some companies, but that didn’t suit me. Then I set myself up as a freelance gardener and I have ended up coming back here, working side by side with Putting Down Roots.

    “I’ve recently completed a garden design qualification and my goal is to study permaculture, and permaculture design. I want to contribute to making this world greener and it’s thanks to Putting Down Roots as well.”

    Find out more about putting Down Roots at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show here.

    St Mungo’s Roma Team: Elena’s Story

    Here, Nicoleta from our Roma Rough Sleeping team tells the story of one of our clients, Elena and how we supported her.

    Elena is one of our clients; we’ve worked with her since November 2019. I met her for the first time on a shift I was doing with my dear colleague, Adrian from SOS Westminster. She used to sleep on the corner, close to Marble Arch in Hyde Park, on the cement. I remember her refusing to go to the doctor although Adrian was so worried about what appeared to be an ear infection.

    Later, the same year, she approached me while I was with a group of Roma in the park. She was offered accommodation with Glassdoor as it was the second lockdown, but she refused. She heard my name from other Romani woman I was working with and who had high health needs, too. She had heard good things about me from these other Romani women. I am smiling while writing this down!

    My colleague Mania and I spoke in Romany with her all the time, and we found out that her Romany nickname is Cometa, which means Comet.

    The definition of Comet is a celestial object consisting of a nucleus of ice and dust and, when near the sun, a ‘tail’ of gas and dust particles pointing away from the sun. This definition embodies the personality of Elena, the power she holds inside and both her warmth and iced attitudes toward her disease, life and us, too.

    She was diagnosed with a degenerative disease, and we witnessed too the deterioration of her health, month after month. We became her support network here, outraged by the way the system has treated her sometimes, but sticking with her.

    We have learned from her, like in mirror or a movie, what is to be born a woman, Roma in Romania, choices she made, and changes in social status. We have learned the pain of a mother who can’t see her children as she is not fit for travel anymore. But, at the same time, we have been amazed by her immense determination and her trust in us, that she will penetrate the system and will enjoy her rights here.

    Her doctor told us that we saved her life when Mania brought her to the hospital for her brain surgery. A surgery she decided to have, which is a sign she trusts us and doctors here even though her family was very reluctant as she was not home with them.

    Our Cometa has taught us many lessons, as human beings, as women, and each time I feel down she comes as a light in my thoughts and tells me to hold on.

    She is the first Romany woman rough sleeper with pre-settled status that passed the Care Act Assessment, after nine months of going back and forth with Adult Social Services.

    She is proof that it is not impossible to work with Roma clients. She is proof that, if we listen to the human stories and break all our prejudices, we may find wonderful, surprising people who will make a strong and lasting impression on our lives.

    Supporting people through a lonely time of year

    During the winter there’s less opportunity for people to go out and so the people we support can isolate themselves which can have a negative impact on their mental health. Here, Ben, a Housing First Caseworker in Westminster shares how our teams are focusing on arranging activities for the people we support to ensure they don’t feel lonely this time of the year. 

    Housing First is a service that moves people into accommodation first and then work with them around that to help them support their tenancy. I think it’s really important that we work in this way as I think it’s easy to get someone into accommodation and then to lose them as they’ll get into somewhere and they find themselves isolated and by themselves and they don’t know what to do and they can sometimes develop depression because they’re feeling so alone. It’s not something many people would expect for someone who has just been given their own home but because they’re not used to being on their own all the time it’s difficult for them.

    When you’ve housed people who have been living on the streets during the winter time it’s hard to persuade them to come out in the cold and wet weather. So it’s important that we offer them something new, and we try to give them a new experience, whether that’s a museum visit or going out for a Chinese so that they feel part of society and their community.

    I was speaking with someone today who had been on the streets for 14 years and now they’re in the flat they can’t give it up for anything, the home is everything they have and since he’s moved into accommodation he has regressed and hidden himself away because he’s never had the opportunity to do that before. It becomes harder during the winter months to keep our clients engaged and to get them out of their houses and taking part in activities. I also recognise the fact that none of us do particularly well during the winter, it’s not a great time of year for most people so there’s definitely  a change of mood. It’s making sure that I’m having daily check ins with my clients to see how they’re coping and to make sure they’re ok and what support they need.

    Christmas is a bit of a taboo subject as if you’ve had very traumatic experience, Christmas is not a fun loving or pleasant time for them. They see people around them that are off doing their Christmas shopping, meeting with their friends and being able to spend time with their family and loved ones and it can add to the isolation people feel. Just because they’re in their own accommodation it doesn’t get any easier for them and it can sometimes bring up period of their life where they are reflecting on the past and they realise they are alone for Christmas. It’s a real struggle and I think it is a bit of a taboo subject, as the reality of it is that it is a really tough time for a lot of people.

    A lot of the things that we do around Housing First, is to make sure all our clients have food hampers over Christmas and we individualise each of our clients Christmas packages as much as we can which I Think makes a real difference. Making sure that our clients are aware of the extra support that is available to them over the winter time. As a team we work for the majority of Christmas and we make sure that staff are available to support clients when they need them and they’ll receive daily check-ins and phone calls and we share the work load a lot as sometimes people do need to be off, we also take on other teams clients when they’re off on leave to make sure that everyone is still supported during the break.

    I do go out and buy my clients their very own mini Christmas tree and a few decorations so they have something to look forward to. I think it’s also a nice reminder that if they do start to feel lonely at Christmas and if they are on their own then they can look at the tree and know that someone does care about them and hopefully it will remind them of a happier moment.

    I think it’s really important that people show that they care at this time of year, however they do that. There are parts of Christmas that I don’t enjoy and I think sharing these experiences and my own feeling helps my clients to see that they’re not alone, and that not everyone is having a jolly festive time, regardless of their situation.

    I’ve been working with someone with very complex mental health. At the beginning the only way he would feel comfortable talking to me was if he was in his bed under a duvet. He wouldn’t come out to see me and he wasn’t looking after himself very well. Six months later, we now meet up three times a week and get a cup of coffee at a local café and he’s beginning to trust me which is amazing. He’s now on a mental health pathway within St Mungo’s and is moving to additional support, he said “I can’t believe you’ve listened to me and you’ve made it happen”. He was so happy. I think it goes to show that there isn’t a perfect scenario for people experiencing homelessness and your options are always limited when you’re in the system, but being able to find him a space that’s more calming environment and less chaotic is really great for me. To see the growth in someone is the reason why I do this job.

    Find out more about our Housing First service here.

    We must not let the health needs of women experiencing homelessness be forgotten

    We recently submitted our joint recommendations to the Government’s public consultation on England’s first Women’s Health Strategy alongside Crisis, Groundswell and Homeless Link. In this blog Emma Cookson, our Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer, explains why health for women experiencing homelessness is such an important issue.

    The average age of death for women sleeping rough or living in emergency accommodation is just 43 years old – that’s nearly 40 years younger than women in the general population.

    These numbers reflect the devastating reality that in far too many cases, the health needs of women experiencing or at risk of homelessness are too often forgotten.

    The Government recently held a public consultation on their women’s health strategy. And, working together with Crisis, Groundswell and Homeless Link, we submitted a series of recommendations to make sure that our clients’ needs are brought to the forefront.


    Hidden from help

    Our experience as a leading service provider shows us how inextricably linked homelessness and health are. In 2021, 81% of women in St Mungo’s housing-related support services had a mental health support need, 49% had a drug support need, and 57% had a physical health support need.

    It’s also important to recognise that women’s experiences of homelessness – and the traumas they face – are vastly different from men’s. Their trauma is often rooted in gender-based violence and abuse. A 2015 study from Ireland found that as many as 92% of homeless women had experienced violence or abuse during their lifetime.

    Many women are hidden whilst homeless or rough sleeping. They find secluded sleep sites or may be forced to stay with strangers who expect sex in return for shelter.

    Hiding from harm means that women are also hidden from help. They are missing from homelessness services and statistically invisible, but the problems they’re facing are considerable.

    Despite all of this, there aren’t enough homelessness services that cater specifically to the needs of women. In 2019, only ten percent of accommodation services in England provided women-only accommodation.


    Trapped in a cycle

    How can women feel safe in healthcare settings when they are constantly facing reminders of their experiences of violence and abuse?

    We know that trauma and abuse can impact women’s attitudes and experiences when dealing with support and mental health services. It can leave women trapped in a cycle of homelessness and poor health as their problems are aggravated.

    Women recovering from domestic abuse might struggle to feel comfortable in services which are mostly male-dominated. Some of our clients are also known to be involved in selling or exchanging sex, which can place them at greater risk of physical harm and sexual health issues, including sexual violence. Some women might also feel too ashamed or embarrassed to engage with support.


    Grief, shame and guilt

    Another big challenge is supporting women in discussions and decision-making around childcare. Feelings of shame and stigma can make it harder for women to access contraceptives.

    Not to mention the complex feelings surrounding decisions to continue with an unplanned pregnancy in challenging circumstances, coupled with potential judgement from others.

    For many women experiencing homelessness, a lack of support means they are separated from their children permanently – a situation of unimaginable grief, shame and guilt, which can alienate them even further from health and support services.

    All of this highlights why it was so important for us as homeless organisations to make a submission to this strategy, to share the knowledge and experience from our clients’ lived experience and that we have gained working on the frontline.

    These are the main points we included:

    • We need the Government’s Women’s Health Strategy to recognise and meet the needs of women experiencing homelessness, and engage directly with women with lived experience of homelessness and rough sleeping.
    • There needs to be adequate funding for women’s specialist services across the country, including provision of accommodation. Providing the right accommodation is a health intervention in itself – along with women-only services and drop-in sessions in mixed provision being available in every local area.
    • The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to provide increased long-term funding and additional training so services can offer better support for women with complex needs who are trying to sustain or gain access to their children.
    • We need health and homelessness services to be trauma and psychologically informed.
    • Better research into women’s homelessness and data collection to build a clear picture of the problems around women’s homelessness and healthcare.


    Women’s lives depend on a Women’s Health Strategy that meets the needs of women experiencing homelessness. Funding is needed so that these women aren’t forgotten or side-lined, even within the homelessness sector. And a focus on women’s health is needed now more than ever.

    St Mungo’s welcomes long term funding commitment to provide homes for people sleeping rough

    The news that the next phase of funding for the Government’s scheme to provide homes for people who had been sleeping rough will cover the next three years, has been described as ‘welcome’ by leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s.

    Today (18 March) the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has launched the application process for councils to submit their requests for a share of the £212m funding.

    The money, which is part of the Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme, will provide funding for both housing and support over the next three years.

    Homes will be made available in every region of England, enabling people who sleep rough, or who are at risk of sleeping rough, to be rehoused in secure, long-term accommodation.

    It is the next stage of investment in longer-term accommodation for people who have experienced rough sleeping, and will be used to support schemes such as those provided by St Mungo’s in partnership with Bristol City Council.

    Chief Executive of St Mungo’s Steve Douglas CBE said: “This is welcome news, and what we hope will be the next step in the development of a long term strategy to end rough sleeping for good.

    “We saw unprecedented collaboration between national, regional and local government, health agencies, homelessness organisations and housing associations in the response to the pandemic.

    “That response undoubtedly saved lives. We must now ensure that this recognition that longer term planning and funding for the homes and the health support that is necessary, is a cross-government commitment.”

    On 26 March last year the Government launched the Everyone In initiative which saw people who had been sleeping rough supported into emergency accommodation to help protect them from the virus.

    So far more than 37,000 people have been helped, with more than 26,000 already moved on to longer-term accommodation.

    Yesterday the Public Affairs Committee released a report analysing the Government’s handling of the issue rough sleeping during the pandemic which praised the “considerable achievement” of the Everyone In scheme, but which also addressed several areas of concern.

    In May last year the Government pledged £161m for the first year of the programme which was to be used to provide more than 3,000 new homes.

    In total the Government has pledged to provide 6,000 homes by the end of the current Parliament.

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