St Mungo’s has released new research this week- Stop the Scandal: the case for action on mental health and rough sleeping – thanks to the valuable experience and input from our clients.
To launch the report, our clients went to Parliament and wrote to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt MP, to request an urgent meeting to discuss the mental health crisis on our streets. Report author Catherine Glew spoke to clients from St Mungo’s Outside In group to find out the realities of sleeping rough with a mental health problem.
Each November, a service at the church at St Martin in the Fields in Central London marks the deaths of people who have been homeless. This year, 160 names were read aloud. Some statistics never fail to shock.
When the Stop the Scandal campaign launched, St Mungo’s highlighted that four in ten people sleeping rough have a mental health problem. Our new report makes the case for action and looks closely at how we should respond, uncovering new figures that show how far there is still to go.
New Freedom of Information requests by St Mungo’s revealed that just 32% of local areas with the highest levels of rough sleeping commission specialist mental health services that target people sleeping rough.
People rarely think about mental health
There are heartbreaking stories underneath the statistics. Clients from Outside In told me that people are treated poorly and often labelled, scapegoated and judged for sleeping rough. People see drink or drugs behind rough sleeping, but rarely think about mental health. Mental ill-health can affect anyone, but people sleeping rough face adverse weather conditions, fear and isolation that puts them at greater risk.
The Outside In group paid tribute to the services, charities, volunteers and businesses that are already working to help people sleeping rough in bigger and smaller ways. They told me:“It’s important to appreciate what we already have, and not to cut resources where they are most needed.”
Listen and learn
But to stop this scandal, we agreed that we have to go further. For this report, I spoke to 21 St Mungo’s clients who had slept rough in the past. I heard about people sleeping rough while dealing with depression and anxiety, post-traumatic stress and bipolar disorder and while experiencing psychosis.
Eight people told me about a time they had attempted or considered suicide.
For me, one client got to the heart of the problem: “I’m not sure that people are actually listening to you.”
This report is the first step, listening to people who have slept rough in the past and proposing solutions for the future.
Time for action
Our clients told us that five simple principles can improve mental health services for people sleeping rough. Services must be:
- most of all they must listen.
Outside In took that message to Parliament this week.
They told me: “The government should do its homework, and it must take action to stop homelessness. We need to better understand homelessness and its root causes, and most of all we need urgent investment to make sure nobody is stuck sleeping rough with a mental health problem.”
We will keep listening to the stories that matter, and with your help St Mungo’s clients and staff can create real change.
Sign up to join our Stop the Scandal campaign and keep up to date with the request from our clients to Jeremy Hunt.
You can read the ‘Stop the Scandal: the case for action on mental health and rough sleeping’ report on our website