57% of rough sleepers seek help before the streets

Homeless Link has today (7 March) called on politicians, public and voluntary sector professionals to ‘Take a Step’ to help end rough sleeping at an event held at the House of Commons.

With Government figures showing a 23% increase in the number of rough sleepers in England, Homeless Link has launched a campaign to encourage NHS, council, criminal justice and other professionals to join charities in the drive to prevent people sleeping out.

New research  from the umbrella body for homelessness charities indicates that 57% of new rough sleepers seek advice or use services before ending up on the streets.

Interviews with 197 individuals found that, in the period between leaving their last home and the first instance of rough sleeping, people sought help from a wide variety of sources:

  • 27% had accessed day centres, homelessness advice or outreach services
  • 26% had accessed council housing departments or social services;
  • 12% had accessed drug, alcohol, mental health or GP services;
  • 6% had accessed job centre plus; and
  • 6% had sought advice from family and friends.

Speaking at the launch of the ‘Take a Step’ campaign at the House of Commons today, Matt Harrison, Interim Chief Executive of Homeless Link, said:

“On any one night over 2000 people sleep out. Our recent research suggests that over half of these people would have approached services for help before sleeping on the streets. While we need to do more to encourage people to seek help, it is clear that those who do are not getting the support they need to stay off the streets.

“We can stop this. Whether you’re a nurse, police officer, housing professional, politician or a member of the public you can play your part. Join us and help end rough sleeping.” 

Commenting, Housing Minister Grant Shapps said:

“Ending rough sleeping requires all of us to play our part to tackle the range of complex issues that can lead someone to lose their home.

“That’s why I will be launching a new national hotline so any member of the public worried about someone sleeping rough can get them the help they need to find a place to stay.

“And it’s why I’m backing Homeless Link’s Take a Step campaign, and would urge charities, the police and the health service to come together to tackle rough sleeping.”

Take your step:

@HomelessLink #whatsyourstep

Step suggestions:

  • “I am helping to end rough sleeping by calling my local helpline every time I see a rough sleeper” (member of the public)
  • "We are helping to end rough sleeping by offering additional emergency accommodation at our hostel" (hostel manager)
  • “I am helping to end rough sleeping by protecting funding for homelessness services” (local councillor)
  • “I am helping to end rough sleeping by making sure my patient has somewhere to stay” (nurse)
  • “I am helping to end rough sleeping by offering employment and skills training to people in hostels” (trainer)
  • “I am helping to end rough sleeping by reporting hotspots to the local outreach team” (policeman)
  • “I am helping to end rough sleeping by giving prison leavers the advice they need on housing” (criminal justice team member)