About homelessness

Tonight, someone will sleep rough for the first time. It will be cold, uncomfortable, lonely and potentially life threatening. They may face abuse or violence.

Rough sleeping is the most visible form of homelessness. Nationally, the numbers of those rough sleeping is, sadly, on the rise.

Being ‘homeless’

Being ‘homeless’ encompasses other experiences as well as rough sleeping, like living in a hostel, or ‘sofa surfing’. Homelessness is complex. It can be a result of individual circumstances – relationship breakdown, bereavement, mental health issues – often exacerbated by wider social and economic factors – eviction, job loss, or lack of access to much needed physical or mental health care. It is a problem faced by individuals but it’s also a social concern. And it is not inevitable.

Read more about why people become homeless

Why we are needed

That’s why St Mungo’s vision is so important. We want everyone to have a place to call home, and the opportunity to fulfil their hopes and ambitions. Our ambition is to reverse the rise in rough sleeping in England. In the areas where we work, we aim to halve the number of people sleeping rough by 2021.

We put the person at the heart of how we work. Whatever the issues someone faces, be they drug or alcohol related, or to do with mental or physical health, we use a recovery based approach. This uses a person’s unique skills and strengths as the foundation upon which to build their recovery.

You can read more about our approach to helping people experiencing homelessness, or get involved and use your own time and skills to end homelessness and rebuild lives.

St Mungo's staff with a rough sleeper

Have you seen someone sleeping rough or begging?

If you are concerned about someone sleeping rough please contact StreetLink who can connect that person to local services and support. If the situation is an emergency, please don’t hesitate – call 999 for an ambulance or the police.

You can find more information here about what to do if you are worried about someone sleeping rough or see someone begging.

What can ‘homelessness’ mean?

  • Sleeping rough

    the most visible form of homelessness, this is when someone is sleeping on the streets

  • Homeless

    not necessarily sleeping rough, but in unstable accommodation such as a hostel, B&B or another type of temporary home

  • Sofa surfing

    moving between friends’ or relatives’ houses, can also be known as “hidden homelessness”


The average age of death for a man who dies whilst homeless is 45


The average age of death for a woman who dies whilst homeless is 41


4 in 10 people sleeping rough have a mental health condition**

How you can help