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.