St Mungo’s | Stop The Scandal – The case for action on mental health and rough sleeping

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St Mungo's: Stop The Scandal

Today, St Mungo’s released the second part of their investigation into mental health and rough sleeping, as part of our Stop the Scandal campaign. We wanted to find out what specialist mental health services are commissioned to help people who sleep rough. What we discovered was deeply disturbing.

Only a third of areas with 10 or more people sleeping rough have mental health services that are designed to reach them. This is simply not good enough.

We all know that rough sleeping is dangerous and ruins lives – people who sleep rough with mental health problems are 50% more likely to get stuck on the streets. Out of the clients we spoke to, many had mental problems when they found themselves on the streets, and most told us that their mental health got worse as a result of sleeping rough.

We worked with our clients to develop a set of five principles to inform how services working with people sleeping rough with a mental health problem should be commissioned and delivered.

Services must be: accessible, attentive, understanding, caring and persistent.

This afternoon, they’ll be sharing the findings of our report at a Parliamentary event with Ministers from the Department of Health and Communities and Local Government, calling on them to ensure that mental health services that embody these principles are commissioned as a matter of urgency.

Not only that, but our clients will also be asking to meet with Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, to discuss their first-hand experiences of sleeping rough.

In the meantime, read St Mungo’s report: Stop The Scandal – The case for action on mental health and rough sleeping

Inside Housing launches homelessness campaign


14 November 2016 

Inside Housing launches homelessness campaign


Inside Housing has launched a campaign to tackle rough sleeping to mark this week’s 50th anniversary of the landmark film Cathy Come Home.

The Cathy at 50 campaign will raise awareness and promote innovative practice to help end rough sleeping. We will also be launching a competition – Reel Homes – to produce a film about homelessness or the housing crisis and deliver a Cathy Come Home for the 21st century.

As part of the campaign, Inside Housing will be running in-depth investigations and analysis every day this week, examining the current homelessness landscape and providing ideas for the government and the housing sector about how to reduce the currently soaring levels of rough sleeping.

Cathy at 50 will call for some practical action too. It asks councils, housing providers and the government to look at adopting a Housing First approach to tackle rough sleeping.

The model, which involves providing permanent housing backed up by tailored support, appears to have been successful in tackling rough sleeping in other countries and the campaign argues it should be rolled out more widely in the UK. To kick things off, today our research looks at the impact Housing First has had in Finland and Canada.

The campaign is also calling on the Government to commit to ending rough sleeping, and halve it by 2020 as a staging post.

Cathy at 50 campaign aims:

  • To launch a film competition to produce a finished work about homelessness or the impact of the housing crisis.
  • A week of detailed research and stories from the frontline to mark the 50th anniversary of Cathy Come Home and promote a wider debate about the current homelessness crisis.
  • Calls for councils to explore Housing First as a default option for long-term rough sleepers and commission Housing First schemes. Calls for housing associations to identify additional stock for Housing First schemes and for government to support five Housing First projects, collect evidence and distribute best practice.
  • Calls for the government to commit to ending rough sleeping, and to halve rough sleeping by 2020 as the first step to achieving this.

Senior sector figures have already lent their support to the campaign.

Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), said: “The 50th anniversary of Cathy Come Home is a chance to reflect on an issue which has worsened steadily since 2010.”

Ms Alafat added that the current Homelessness Reduction Bill represents a historic opportunity to tackle the issue, but as well as the new law the Government “needs to commit to a strategy on homelessness which tackles the root causes and gives more support to local authorities”.

She added that the CIH supports Housing First “as part of a wider effort to tackle homelessness”.

Jeremy Swain, chief executive of homelessness charity Thames Reach, said that it has “long advocated the mainstreaming of the Housing First model in the UK to assist long-term rough sleepers with multiple needs and we are pleased to be able to give our strong backing to the Inside Housing campaign that seeks to achieve this.”

He added: “There are many approaches to helping homeless people which sound fine but cannot demonstrate that they successfully help people to escape homelessness. In contrast, the Housing First model has been scrutinised and evaluated very carefully and has a proven track record in helping people come off the street, stay housed and get their lives back. In short: Housing First works and we need more of it.”

Exeter City Council Planning Application 16/1376/03 for Safe Sleep facility

Planning Application 16/1376/03 for Former Richards Aquatics, Market Street, Exeter, EX1 1BW – Change of use from A1 to temporary night shelter [sui generis] until end of March 2017.

Planning Statement for the temporary change of use from an A1 retail unit to include use as a temporary Night Shelter.

19 Market Street, Exeter, Devon EX1 1BW

The site lies within Exeter City Council.

Background Information

The unit, currently vacant, previously traded as Richard’s Aquatics and is to be leased to the charity Julian House [through its trading subsidiary Julian House Trading] to operate a Bicycle Workshop social enterprise.

Exeter City Council has agreed that Julian House will operate as the delivery partner for Safe Sleep’ in 2016/17. Safe Sleep will provide emergency accommodation and assistance to all those rough sleepers who may otherwise be excluded from services, including people with no recourse to public funds, people who have previously faced bans and those with no local connection.

Intended Use.

The existing A1 use of 19 Market Street will continue with a social enterprise being developed to operate a Bike Workshop. This will create positive learning and work opportunities Monday to Saturday 9-5pm.

The additional Sui Generis use sought is to be able to deliver temporary hostel accommodation known as Safe Sleep on behalf of the local authority, nightly from 8pm to 8am, from 01 December 2016, running this service continuously for three months. Safe Sleep will incorporate the provision of Severe Weather Emergency Protocol [SWEP] accommodation for the Authority providing additional space during periods of severe weather when people sleeping on the streets of Exeter are most at risk. The timing of this will be affected by episodes of severe weather, with the potential to operate until the end of March 2017.

The aim of Safe Sleep and SWEP is to prevent loss of life and to reduce rough sleeping to as near zero in the city as possible.

The Market Street premises will offer dormitory-style accommodation with camp-beds and bedding. There will be onsite catering, laundry shower/wash and toilet facilities. The accommodation will be accessible to those who may have a disability or mobility issues.

Planning Policy

The proposal will not harm the amenities of nearby residents by virtue of noise, smell, litter or late night activity. The access for Safesleep will be on to the open, wide and accessible from Market Street only, avoiding the George Street to the rear. A safe and secure environment will be provided by professional staff backed up by comprehensive networked cctv.

No television or audio will be audible outside of the unit and occupants will normally be expected to be within the accommodation prior to 11pm. Together these working methods will ensure that the proposal will have a negligible impact on the surrounding areas.

The proposal will not create or increase the potential for public disorder and crime or reduce the perceived attractiveness of the centre through: support by professional staff; a close working relationship with the existing Homeless Outreach team, and a close working relationship with the police. Indeed it is expected that the operation of Safe Sleep will positively contribute to the wider safety of the City Centre.

Location Plan
Floor Plan

Labour Press | “Osborne must use the Budget to turn round spiralling homelessness figures”

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13 March 2016

Labour warn Osborne must use the Budget to turn round spiralling homelessness figures

Ahead of the Budget on Wednesday Labour has released new figures showing that on current trends the number of homeless families is set to reach almost 400,000 by 2020.

Headline ‘statutory homelessness’ statistics only capture those people who fall into a small number of so-called ‘priority need’ groups containing the most vulnerable applicants like pregnant women and young people leaving care. Along with charities and academics, Labour has argued that a much better measure also includes ‘prevention and relief’ cases where councils step in to stop families becoming homeless.

This more comprehensive measure reveals that homelessness rose to 275,000 families last year, up 75,000 from 2010, and is set to hit 369,000 by 2020 on current trends.

This is in addition to rough sleeping figures which records people sleeping on the streets and has doubled in the last five years.

This rise can be traced directly to decisions taken by George Osborne in previous Budgets which have led to big cuts in housing support over the last five years, including:

·         cuts to housing benefit support worth over £5bn since 2010 – 13 separate cuts to housing benefit over the last five years, including the bedroom tax and breaking the link between private rented sector housing benefit and private rents;

·         cuts to ‘supporting people’ funding for homelessness services – the National Audit Office have revealed that vital funding for homelessness services fell by 45 per cent between 2010 and 2015;

·         soaring private rents – averaging over £1600 extra each year than in 2010; and

·         the loss of affordable homes – with over 100,000 fewer council homes than in 2010.

Without a change of direction from George Osborne, cuts in this Parliament are set to hit housing services and support on an even bigger scale:

·         the further impact of cuts to housing benefit is set to total almost £11bn between 2015 and 2020, plus a new cap on housing benefit announced in the Autumn Statement which homelessness organisations say will lead to the mass closure of their services;

·         further cuts to local authority support meaning homelessness services unable to cope – the IFS calculate further real terms cuts of around 7 per cent to council budgets over the next five years;

·         private rent rises are set to continue with Savills predict an inflation-busting 16.5 per cent increase in average rents over the next five years; and

·         A further loss of 300,000 social rented homes predicted over the next five years.

Commenting, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Housing and Planning John Healey MP said:

“Rising homeless figures carry the starkest warning for the Chancellor ahead of the Budget.

“This spiralling scale of homelessness shames us all when Britain is one of the richest countries in the world. It is a test of our basic humanity. It should shake the Chancellor from his complacency about the growing homeless crisis and shock him into action.

“The homeless figures hide personal stories of hurt and hopelessness; thousands of people whose ordinary lives have fallen apart from illness, debt, family break-up, addiction or redundancy.

“His failure to control housing costs and crude cuts to housing support over the last five years are making the problem much worse. The Government have no long-term housing plan for the country.

“George Osborne must use the Budget this week to stop the upward spiral of homelessness which is being driven by the government’s own housing policy failures.

“He must now re-think the multi-billion pound cuts to housing and homelessness support which are set to bite during this Parliament, as well as strengthening the law to help prevent homelessness happening in the first place as Labour has done in Wales.”



·         The wider measure of homelessness used here – including homelessness ‘prevention and relief’ cases as well as ‘statutory homeless’ acceptances – was developed and is used by leading housing academics in the annual ‘Homelessness Monitor’ commissioned by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation :

·         Between 2009/10 and 2014/15 the average annual increase in this wider measure of homelessness was 6%. If the rate of increase in the last five years continued over the next five years this would mean 369,124 homelessness cases by 2019/20.

Source: DCLG statutory homelessness and homelessness prevention and relief statistics: 2009/10 – 2014/15.

·         In addition, the latest rough sleeping figures collected in Autumn 2015 show that the number of people sleeping on England’s streets has doubled since 2010 with 3,659 people recorded sleeping rough on one night:

·         Figures on housing benefit cuts for the last Parliament, and planned over the next were supplied by the House of Commons Library.

·         The National Audit Office have revealed that cuts to supporting people funding for homelessness services averaged 455.3% between 2010/11 and 2014/15:

·         Average private market rents were £1,608 a year more expensive in January 2016 than at the same point in 2010, according the LSL rental index:

·         There were 117,000 fewer council homes in England in 2014 than in 2010:

·         IFS figures suggest cuts to local authority budgets of around 7% over the next five years:

·         Savills have predicted UK-wide increase in rents of 16.5% over the next five years:

·         The Chartered Institute of Housing have said that as many as 300,000 homes for social rent could be lost over the next five years:

·         More information on the measure the Welsh Government have taken on homelessness are available here:


Homelessness Link | Homelessness services face uncertain future as rough sleeping figures double

Homeless Link logo Homeless Link tagline

Homelessness services face uncertain future as rough sleeping figures double

Government figures published today show that the number of people who sleep rough each night in England has more than doubled since 2010. Homeless Link believes the numbers could have been much higher without the support, innovation and adaptability of the homelessness sector.

According to the statistics, 3,569 people were estimated by local authorities to be sleeping rough on any one night in 2015. This represents a 30% increase on the 2014 estimate of 2,744, and a 102% increase since 2010, when the figure stood at 1,768.

However, without the critical support and temporary accommodation offered by homelessness services across England, Homeless Link believes this number could have been much higher.

The South West has seen the biggest percentage increase in rough sleeping since last year (41%). This is followed by the East of England (38%), the South East (36%) and the West Midlands (34%), all of which have seen increases in rough sleeping above the national average.

Responding to the rise in rough sleeping, Rick Henderson, Chief Executive of umbrella body Homeless Link, said:

“It is understandable that many people will focus exclusively on today’s latest statistic, but it’s worth considering how much higher that figure might have been without the support and innovation of frontline homelessness services. When the right local services are in place to help people off the streets as quickly as possible, we know it is possible to turn this situation around.”

In 2012, the Government called on every local authority to adopt the No Second Night Out standard by developing services to help people off the streets quickly. This was backed by £20m in grants for local homelessness charities over three years. This funding came to an end last March, but before it did, 13,900 people were helped off the streets before they spent a second night out, while 29,000 people at risk of homelessness were helped before they slept rough. Overall, almost 64,000 people were helped.

While Homeless Link welcomes the Government taking steps to protect funding for homelessness, the future for many homelessness services locally remains uncertain. They face a range of pressures, including reduced local authority funding, substantial changes to the welfare system and a housing crisis in many parts of the country. When combined, these factors present a clear threat to our vision of ending homelessness through innovative homelessness services.

Rick Henderson went on to say:

“It is unacceptable that anyone has to sleep rough in Britain today – and even more shocking that the number of people in this situation has risen every year since 2010. Unfortunately, many homelessness charities have already seen their funding fall as demand for help rises.

“Homelessness is costly and damaging to individuals and society, but we know that when national and local government have the right vision and strategy in place and invest in the right services, rough sleeping need not be inevitable.”

Explore rough sleeping trends in your area since 2010 with our live tables on rough sleeping.

Rough sleeping - Data for Exeter
Rough sleeping – Data for Exeter 2010-15

You may also like Rough sleeping – our analysis
Our analysis of numbers and trends around people who sleep rough in England.


The language of homelessness

It is important that we are clear about the language of homelessness – throughout my writing on this blog , and elsewhere, I will try to use the following terms:

Ambulant begging – The practice of walking up to people to ask for money, as opposed to static begging. Can be an unintended consequence of enforcement action taken against the more visible practice of static begging.

Anti-social behaviour (ASB) – is defined as “Behaviour by a person which causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as the person”. (Antisocial Behaviour Act 2003 & Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011)

Assertive outreach – A way of engaging clients and organising and delivering care via a specialised team to provide intensive, highly-coordinated assessment, referral and flexible support. Characterised by a persistent, long-term presence and approach to building relationships.

Begging – Asking people for money, and in this context includes behaviours which include poor-quality busking, crafts etc.

Designing-out – Adapting, changing and designing the built environment to deter behaviours that are deemed undesirable or anti-social. (E.g. removing benches in areas frequented by street drinkers, gating shop doorways to prevent rough sleeping etc.)

Enforcement – Assertive and potentially punitive actions under legislative powers designed to deter, prevent, disrupt or punish crime and anti-social behaviour.

Exit offer – A comprehensive and accessible range of responsive, flexible social support – delivered within a multi-agency framework – designed to meet an individual’s multiple and complex needs at the same time, in order to achieve a sustainable exit from street-attached lifestyles.

High-yield [begging] sites – Locations with a built environment that are sites of repeat begging activity because they are perceived to be particularly lucrative. Examples include ATMs, night-time economy venues, and outside shops of a particularly high footfall.

Homeless – “You should be considered homeless if you have no home in the UK or anywhere else in the world available for you to occupy. You don’t have to be sleeping on the streets to be considered homeless.” (Shelter.) People may still be considered homeless who are living in squats, in temporary arrangements with friends / family with no long-term prospect of settled accommodation, etc.

Multiple and complex needs – The experience of several problems at the same time, such as mental ill-health, homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse, offending, and family breakdown. People with multiple and complex needs may have ineffective contact with services that are designed to deal with one problem at a time, and are are often trapped living chaotic lives.

New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) – also called “legal highs”, NPS are defined by the present government as, “‘Psychoactive drugs, newly available in the UK, which are not prohibited by the United Nations Drug Conventions but which may pose a public health threat comparable to that posed by substances listed in these conventions.’ They are currently legally available in retail shops and through online distributors, but are the subject of draft legislation. (Psychoactive Substances Bill, 2015-16)

Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) – A public spaces protection order is an order that identifies a specific public place and gives powers to the local authority to prohibit specified behaviours in the restricted area and/or requires specified things to be done by persons carrying on specified activities in that area. The order may not have effect for more than 3 years and the Local Authority must consult with the chief officer of the police and the local policing body before issuing the order.Failure to comply with a public spaces protection order is an offence. Exeter City Council is currently consulting about imposing a PSPO in the city centre.[1]

Rough sleeping – Also called “street homelessness”, a type of homelessness where an individual quite literally is reduced to living and sleeping in open, public spaces – whether through circumstances or choice. Many people who sleep rough will suffer from multiple health conditions, such as mental health problems and drug misuse, and they are also in greater danger of violence, suicide and premature death than the general population.

Sex work – The exchange of sexual services for material compensation – and this can include cash, accommodation, and drugs / alcohol. Sex work is usually grouped as indoor (escorting, massage parlours, brothels) or on-street (outdoor), with the latter being considered far more risky, and associated with more chaotic lifestyles. Exeter has little or no on-street sex industry.

Shoplifting – An acquisitive crime that occurs when someone steals merchandise offered for sale in a retail store. Repeat and prolific shoplifting behaviour can be associated with class A drug use, and some police forces are reporting increases in shoplifting caused by destitution.

Street activity – A broad, generic term for a range of street-based anti-social behaviour, including rough sleeping, begging, street drinking etc.

Street-attachment – A term that recognises the “pull” that street-based lifestyles and peer relationships may have on individuals – including those that are now housed. “Street-attached” individuals may still spent significant periods of time on the street, remain part of street communities, and engage in street-based anti-social behaviour.

Street community / street population – A broad term for groups of people who are street-attached, and engage in street-based anti-social behaviour.

Street drinking – Consumption of (often high-strength) alcohol in a public setting outside of licensed premises. Street drinking can be associated with increased anti-social behaviour, litter, and aggression.

Vulnerably housed – A term for people who are technically housed, but where their accommodation is sub-standard, not sustainable or otherwise not assured, or where it is not suitable to their needs or possibly even detrimental to their health and wellbeing.


Welfare Conditionality | Public Spaces Protection Orders, rough sleepers and media storms


Public Spaces Protection Orders, rough sleepers and media storms

Sarah Johnsen

Proposals to develop Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) in a number of towns and cities have provoked controversy on a number of grounds, but most especially with respect to the increased powers they provide to fine or prosecute people for sleeping rough. Our team member Prof Sarah Johnsen investigates.

PSPOs enable local authorities to apply to prohibit activities that are having, or are likely to have, a persistent and unreasonable detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality. They may ban a whole gamut of things considered to be a ‘problem’ in a defined area. Prohibitions featuring in some include: lying down or sleeping, depositing materials used or intended for use as bedding, begging, consuming intoxicating substances, and improper use of public toilets.

Perpetrators may be given a fixed penalty notice of up to £100 or face prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.

The proposals have evoked strong opposition from local campaigning groups and national civil rights campaigning body Liberty. Tens of thousands of members of the public have signed petitions calling for the proposals to be scrapped. A number of celebrities, amongst them singer Ellie Goulding, have also opposed the inclusion of rough sleeping in PSPO prohibitions. Together, the social media reach of such parties has meant that these ‘local’ initiatives have ignited fierce national debate.

Homelessness charities are divided on the issue. Many oppose the proposals on grounds that theyunjustifiably persecute and criminalise some of the most vulnerable members of society. Others are more sympathetic, arguing that PSPOs provide tools to help break patterns of behaviour that have a deleterious impact on the wider community and are highly damaging to the individuals involved.

A number of questions must be (and are being) asked of the initiatives, regarding:

  • Proportionality – how proportionate are the penalties given the nature of the ‘offence’ of rough sleeping?
  • Legality – are the initiatives in fact legal on human rights and Common Law grounds?
  • Discrimination – is there not a risk that individuals whose appearance does not ‘fit’ with the desired aesthetic will be disproportionately targeted?
  • Effectiveness – will PSPOs actually deter people from sleeping rough?
  • Ethicality – in what circumstances might such initiatives be justified (or not) when the implications for homeless people and the wider community are taken into account?

On the latter issues, existing research indicates that interventions affecting rough sleepers which contain enforcement are ‘high risk’. In some cases they prompt discontinuation of harmful behaviours and increased engagement with support; in others they displace the problem and/or make those affected more resistant to change. There are things that can be done to increase the likelihood of a positive response (such as tailoring individual support), but there is no way of accurately predicting how an individual will react.

This fact, combined with most rough sleepers’ extreme vulnerability (often associated with histories of trauma) and the severity of PSPO penalties (including substantial fines and potential criminalisation), raises thorny ethical questions.

It is not clear whether, and if so to what extent, the provision of support features in implementation plans.Government guidance is somewhat opaque as regards such requirements, and existing consultations generally only make vague (if any) reference to ensuring that support ‘is available’ to those affected. Whatever happens, it is imperative that vulnerable individuals are not criminalised for failing to engage with support that is either non-existent or poor quality.

It is also unclear how this issue will play out going forward. Hackney Council has scrapped its proposed PSPO entirely given the scale of public opposition. In Oxford, rough sleeping has been dropped from the list of activities to be banned. Others have been approved but retain the prohibition of rough sleeping (eg, Newport, Folkestone), while yet more are still under consultation (eg, Liverpool).

Feelings both for and against the use of enforcement tend to be very strong. It is true that concentrations of rough sleepers can and often do have a negative impact on affected communities. It is also true that rough sleeping has a deleterious impact on the welfare of those involved.

The jury is however still out regarding the most effective balance of ‘carrot’ and ‘stick’ in addressing street homelessness – especially given that the process of recovery from addiction and/or trauma is highly individualised, often protracted, and has a significant influence on individuals’ receptivity to support.

This subject is a focus of our Welfare Conditionality study which aims to shed light on the influence of the nature and timing of support and enforcement on outcomes for those affected – be those impacts positive and/or negative, intended and/or unintended.

Until we have a much better understanding of such effects on homeless people, great care needs to be exercised in the consideration of any initiative containing punitive components, and most especially where the remit may be as broad and penalties as severe as is the case with PSPOs.

Further Reading:
Sarah Johnsen, Suzanne Fitzpatrick & Beth Watts Conditionality Briefing: Homelessness and ‘Street Culture’ [Welfare Conditionality, September 2014]