Watch our animation about how Billy rebuilt his life after homelessness.
Why save hostels?
In 2016, St Mungo's supported housing projects - or hostels - gave 4,120 people somewhere safe to stay, over half of whom have slept rough.
Our evidence* shows that people sleeping rough increasingly need support for a range of complex physical and mental health problems.
For many people who have been homeless, the route to recovery is less than straightforward. Poor physical and mental health can be both a cause and consequence of homelessness, and without the right kind of support, it can be difficult to move on. Supported housing projects give people with complex or multiple physical and mental health needs an environment in which to recover and rebuild their lives.
Not only that, but accommodating single homeless people with support needs in specialist housing saves an estimated £6,703 per person annually by reducing costs to health, social care and criminal justice services.
In spite of the benefits, services like this are seeing their funding cut, and new government proposals are set to make a bad situation worse.
Over 12,000 people signed the petition we handed in on World Homeless Day, calling on the Secretaries of State for Communities and Local Government and for Work and Pensions to:
- Develop a sustainable and secure new funding system that helps vulnerable people get off the streets for good
- Introduce a legal requirement for local authorities to assess need and plan for appropriate supported housing provision in their area
- Ensure that the system is fully transparent and accountable to central government
You can read about the petition hand-in in our blog.
With the right support at the right time, people can recover and rebuild their lives after being homeless.
* St Mungo's (2016) Stop the Scandal: an investigation into mental health and rough sleeping
Rob had been homeless on and off for 20 years when he arrived at St Mungo’s.
He had lost his live-in job when he was 17, and had to stay on the floor of a drug dealer’s flat. Fearing for his safety, he left, sleeping rough around London.
This was the start of a long battle with addiction and mental health problems that saw Rob bounce between services that were ill-equipped to help him, often spending periods sleeping rough.
Rob had been in an abstinence programme when he came to St Mungo’s – his tenancy had ended while he was in treatment, so he was at risk of being discharged with nowhere to stay.
He managed to get a little extra funding through his mental health trust, which gave him the time he needed to secure a place at Wood Lane hostel.
“The keywork was incredible – there was a plan put in action within two days of me moving in that was monitored. It was like ‘this is what you want to achieve, these are your goals’, so I kept being refreshed – ‘look, this is what you want to do’.
When I had nothing, everything I wanted I had to put onto paper, and they’d make sure that I would achieve that. I got my debts cleared, I got rehoused, I got my benefits sorted out, all these little things build those pages, and before you know, it turns into the book.”
Rob stayed at Wood Lane for 15 months, volunteering and attending college. Thanks to a discretionary housing payment from his local council, he was able to move on and into his own flat.
He is now a peer research worker with Groundswell, and sits on the London Homeless Health Board which aims to improve homeless people’s access to health services.
“I would say it was more than a foundation, they showed me how to be a person again.”
Mandy has had mental health problems throughout her life, and was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder when she was 27.
In 2012, Mandy lived in a one bedroom flat in Islington, London. After re-connecting with her foster family, she decided to give up her flat and move back home to be with her family.
After six months, her relationship with her foster family broke down and Mandy felt she had to leave. She had nowhere to live, so found herself sofa surfing for a few weeks. She approached her local council and was offered temporary accommodation, but was told she could not bring her dog, Skye. Mandy did not want to give up her Staffie, so ended up on the streets.
Mandy slept rough for two and a half weeks. She attempted suicide while she was living on the streets.
Eventually, a friend informed Mandy of a local church where she could get some food and shower. From there, she was put in touch with St Mungo’s and an outreach team approached her while she was sleeping on a bench and moved her into a St Mungo’s hostel.
“I have had some highs and lows in my life, but right now I am on a high. My confidence has grown and I am very proud of myself.”
Mandy now lives in a St Mungo’s project in Islington which is for people with low-medium support needs.
“I am at a turning point in my life, where my life is more positive. I can honestly say I am doing things I never thought I would do. If it wasn’t for St Mungo’s I would most likely be dead, they saved my life.”
Billy: “Staff are approachable, more hands-on and more understanding of your needs. They will listen to you whether it takes one minute or an hour. There’s support from everyone.”
Billy found himself homeless on the streets of London in 2010. After serving in the armed forces over a nine year period, Billy worked as a docker. However after the breakdown of his 24 year marriage, Billy’s life took a downward turn.
Desperate to escape and make a new life, Billy left his hometown for London. But as he walked from Berkhamsted to Uxbridge along the canal over 12 hours in sub-zero conditions, he had a stroke.
Luckily, he was able to get help from a passer-by, and was admitted to hospital. When he had recovered 75% of his movement back, he was discharged back to the streets. Billy eventually chose the relative safety and quiet of Chelsea as a base. It was eight months until the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Social Inclusion Outreach team managed to persuade him to take up a place at a St Mungo’s hostel in South West London.
Within two months, he had a job as a kitchen assistant at another St Mungo’s hostel, Spring Gardens.
Now Billy is a project worker within the same hostel in Lewishamwhere many of our clients have a dual diagnosis.*
"The level of support need here is high. It’s chaotic. I knew that because of my experiences of homelessness, they – the clients – understood that I knew what they were going through. We’re all human. They’re just in a bad place at the moment.”