Monday 2 July 2018

Today, St Mungo’s released peer led research outlining reasons why some people can find themselves sleeping rough after time away the streets.

The research team – many of whom had experienced homelessness and rough sleeping themselves – uncovered a range of interacting factors that stop people moving on from rough sleeping. Their report also emphasises the need to ensure the right housing is available, as well as the support people need to hang onto their home. The team will present its report at an event in Parliament today, 2 July.

Figures published last week on rough sleeping in London highlight the importance of this research. They revealed an 8% increase in people returning to rough sleeping, even though total numbers were down.

Almost one in six people (15%) seen sleeping rough in the capital in 2017/18 had returned to the streets after a gap of at least one year, a total of 1,119 individuals. This is the highest number and highest proportion of people returning to rough sleeping after some time away since this measure was first recorded on the CHAIN database of rough sleeping in London.

The report, On My Own Two Feet, explores the different factors that can push people away from housing or services or pull people back to rough sleeping, and considers how holes in a person’s “safety net” put them at greater risk of returning to the streets. The research team categorised their findings into the following four areas:

• Push Factors, including: eviction; leaving because accommodation was unsuitable, unsanitary or unsafe; and fleeing violence or abuse
• Pull Factors, including: a sense of belonging and community on the street compared to boredom and isolation when living alone
• Holes in the safety net, including: a lack of informal support options such as friends and family to stay with; trauma and unmet health needs which make it hard to cope with living independently; and barriers to accessing new accommodation such as not having money for a deposit.
• Access to help and support, including: barriers to accessing practical and personal support; prior experience of being turned away or being treated negatively; and difficulty in gaining access to services

Commenting on the findings, Dominic Williamson, St Mungo’s Executive Director of Strategy & Policy, said:

“This report provides some important insights into efforts to end homelessness. It shows that many of the reasons some people return to rough sleeping after time off the streets are preventable. Too many opportunities to provide timely support to help people rebuild their lives are being missed and there is not enough stable and suitable housing that people can truly afford.

“In certain circumstances, people see returning to the streets as attractive compared with the stress of trying to deal with problems with their tenancy. To succeed in keeping people from returning to rough sleeping, we must address both push and pull factors, and close the holes in individual and societal safety nets.

“We believe that everyone who has slept rough should be able to access the right accommodation for them and support to end their homelessness for good.

“We are keen to ensure that we are learning from this research in how St Mungo’s services operate and we hope others will use it too.”

The report highlights the urgent need for good quality support for people who have moved off the streets into accommodation, including floating support and Housing First style services.

The report sets out a number of recommendations for central and local government, service providers and others. They focus on how to prevent people who have already escaped the streets from returning and include:

• The Government should provide sufficient funding, guidance and support to ensure local authorities commission high quality supported accommodation
• The Government should remove barriers to accessing the private rented sector for people who have slept rough and reform tenants’ rights
• Local authorities should ensure that everyone who has slept rough has access to tenancy sustainment support for as long as they need it
• Service providers should support people who have slept rough to build resilience to life’s ups and downs.

On My Own Two Feet will be presented by the peer research team in Parliament today and is available to read here.

Notes to Editor

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Interviews and images available upon request

Examples of client testimonials within the report:

One client, explained how they felt safer living on the streets due to her experiences in temporary accommodation:

“The places I did find to sleep, I got raped or beaten up so I just chose to sleep on the streets.  That was safe. […] I was sofa surfing or the streets.  Sofa surfing, I was quite vulnerable where I was staying, most places, so it was safer to find somewhere on the streets to sleep.”
Another client discussed how the transition from the streets and into accommodation led to loneliness and worsening mental health:

“Once you’re in that flat, that’s it, you’re by yourself.  You might be, like, ‘I can’t cope with this,’ you know what I mean?  You need to have people around.  When you’re in a hostel you’ve got people around you.

You can go and talk to members of staff, you know what I mean?  Have a laugh and a joke with other people.  You haven’t got that.  It’s a real lonely life, being in a flat.  I just don’t think there’s enough support, really, for it.  There never has been and I don’t think there ever will be.”

The Recovery College Research Course team

This research took place as part of a Research Course delivered at St Mungo’s Recovery College. The College is a pioneering, inclusive learning programme, based on the principle that learning can be a transformative experience. Each of the Research Course students received training in the principles of social research, ethics, safeguarding and boundaries, data protection and confidentiality, research design, data collection and analysis techniques, and creating recommendations.