Urgent action is required to prevent more people dying on the streets

New research released from St Mungo’s reveals a dramatic increase in the proportion of people sleeping rough who have died with mental health support needs from 2010 to 2017.

St Mungo’s has written to the Prime Minister to call for urgent action to prevent more people dying on the streets and to urge the government to ensure that no death goes ignored. We want concrete assurances that the new rough sleeping strategy will deliver investment in specialist mental health services for people sleeping rough.

Since 2010 the number of people sleeping rough in England has risen by 169%. Over that time the number of people dying on the streets has also increased.

In London where the most consistent data is recorded, at least 158 people who were sleeping rough died over that period. That is an average of one death every fortnight.

Last year, 8 in 10 of those who died were recorded as having a mental health problem, a rise from 3 in 10 in 2010. Nine in ten needed support for mental health, drug or alcohol problems.

Nearly half are non-UK nationals, 28% from Central and Eastern Europe.

Commenting on the findings, Howard Sinclair, St Mungo’s Chief Executive, said:

“This is nothing short of a national scandal. These deaths are premature and entirely preventable. Rough sleeping has been rising dramatically since 2010 and we are pleased the government is finally recognising and responding to increasing need.

“The forthcoming strategy presents a vital opportunity to make sure no one else dies as a result of sleeping rough.

“We are calling on the Prime Minister to follow through on her commitment to end rough sleeping by making sure all parts of the public sector play their part, especially the health, justice and welfare systems.

“We also know that there are things the government can do today to help stop this scandal, including reviews into deaths, removing the threat of funding reform for homeless hostels, and quicker decision-making around immigration for people stuck on the streets.”

The report – Dying on the streets: the case for moving quickly to end rough sleeping – also presents the findings of a new national survey of street outreach services.

– 64% of outreach services said access to emergency accommodation for people sleeping rough had got harder compared to five years ago

– 70% said access to mental health services for people sleeping rough had got harder compared to five years ago

– Only 21% said that their outreach service had seen a real terms increase in funding in the last five years