New research released today 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.
The charity has written to the Prime Minister today 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. St Mungo’s wants 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 from across England which asked respondents to reflect on the last five years.
– 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
– 63% of respondents were aware of someone who had died while sleeping rough in their local authority area in the last year. However, only 23% had any experience of a review being carried out in their area following the death of someone sleeping rough.
Hannah Hunter is the manager of a St Mungo’s outreach team in London. She said: “A number of years ago, on an icy Christmas Eve, I was asked by the police to go into a garden to try and identify the body of a man who had been found dead that morning. I immediately recognised him as someone who had been sleeping rough and in contact with our outreach service. I had previously spoken to him to find out what we could do to help him off the streets. He was very guarded and gave little information about what help he needed or how he found himself on the streets.
“Sadly, he died before help could be given. I felt unprepared, sad, confused and shocked that someone could die in this way. The memory of this man has always stayed with me and with it the feeling that more needs to be done to prevent similar injustices occurring again. It is tragic that years later, people are still dying on the streets”
Animation video download link: https://youtu.be/r96hYU3-iS4
Report link: www.mungos.org/dying
Press Contact: Gemma Hollingshead firstname.lastname@example.org 020 3856 6131 / 07979 018 734
This report adds to recent work done by the Bureau of Investigative Journalists, The Guardian and others to gain a better understanding of the scale of this issue. Their research suggests that the number of homeless deaths rose from 32 in 2013 to 77 in 2017 . In the first 4 months of 2018 alone there have already been 40 recorded deaths, higher than the figure for the whole of 2013 and an average of more than 2 deaths every week .
Overwhelmingly, the deaths of these individuals are premature and entirely preventable. The average age of death for a man who dies whilst homeless is 47. For a woman, it is just 43 .