Your questions, our answers

Homelessness is a complex issue, and there are many misconceptions about it. Below, we've answered the most commonly asked questions about homelessness.

What does homeless mean?

Homelessness comes in many forms. Many people associate homelessness as sleeping on the streets, but it can look very different and often is less visible than rough sleeping.

Being in unstable accommodation such as a hostel or B&B, or even sofa surfing can also mean someone is homeless.

How do people end up homeless?

Many of the people we see have mental or physical health problems, or have struggled with addiction.  These issues can cause homelessness, but are more often the result of it.

Sometimes people face a complex mix of these factors, on top of more difficult family backgrounds than most.

Many people who become homeless have had traumatic experiences. Sometimes it was abuse, other times it was an unstable environment, such as moving between foster homes. For some people, these experiences put them at risk from an early age. In fact, some people we work with say that their early experiences led them to struggle with addiction while still in their teens.

Many of our clients also tell us that, alongside the personal issues they face, there have been social issues or changes that have contributed to them becoming homeless or not being able to access support. These could include:

  • Changes to housing costs and welfare reforms leading to homelessness
  • Availability of supported housing
  • Homelessness services having limited capacity to help.

These factors together can represent a real challenge for organisations seeking to help people facing homelessness.

How do you get someone out of homelessness for good?

Our services focus on the different stages of a person’s journey of homelessness or sleeping rough: before, during and after.

We work with people to understand their goals, and help them to achieve them in the best way to support them to rebuild their lives. In 2020-21, we helped 28,300 people, providing accommodation, support, and skills and training services for people who have experienced homelessness.

What practical steps could the Government take to end homelessness?

Large increases in private rents at a time when Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates have remained frozen is one of the primary drivers behind the current increase in rough sleeping.

The Government should restore Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates to the 30th percentile of local rents. 

There is also simply not enough housing available that is genuinely affordable, and the Government should explore a range of options to increase supply in the intermediate term, with consideration given to: topping up existing Shared Ownership and Affordable Rent developments with grant funding to transfer them into social rent, regenerating substandard and unused housing, and building modular units.

This programme should be properly funded and regulated to ensure good standards of accommodation.

What do St Mungo's outreach teams do?

We are one of the largest providers of outreach services for people who are rough sleeping in England. 

Our outreach teams go out at night and early in the morning, looking for people sleeping rough to help them away from the streets. Our priority is to get people into safe accommodation. 

Our top priority with anyone sleeping rough is to get a roof over their head and a safe place to begin their recovery. While this isn’t enough to end their homelessness, it’s a vital first step in making sure their situation stops deteriorating. 

In London, our outreach teams can refer people to our No Second Night Out hubs, which ensure that people arriving on the streets will not sleep rough for a second night. They are safe places for people to be assessed by our professional teams, so plans can be made quickly to support them to the next step, away from the streets. 

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