Homeless told to sleep rough to get help, St Mungo's says

Homeless person Image copyright PA

Some homeless people have been told by councils to sleep rough so they can get help, a charity has said.

Research by St Mungo's found some local authorities turned away those in need or told them to sleep on the streets in order to access services.

It wants the government to ensure local authorities stop sending away those with nowhere to go.

Ministers say no-one should ever have to sleep rough and money was being invested to help those in need.

The findings, based on 40 St Mungo's clients, suggest that three-quarters slept rough after asking a council for help.

One person interviewed by the charity said: "We decided to go to the local council and they told us that we had to sleep rough for three nights in a row before they could actually do anything to help us.

"We just felt complete despair."

'Spitting and urinating'

The report also found that 129 rough sleepers had died in London since 2010, and a quarter of those interviewed reported having been physically assaulted on the streets.

"I've been beaten up quite a few times sleeping in doorways, or even in cars.

"They smash the window in on top of you, spit on you, urinate on you, try and set you on fire," one client recounted.

"I've had all of those things happen to me."

Howard Sinclair, St Mungo's CEO, said: "Too many people are dying on our streets and too many are living with damaging long-term consequences of not having a roof."

Image copyright PA

He wants fundamental reform of the system for assisting people who are at risk of sleeping rough in England.

The charity is calling on MPs to support the Homelessness Reduction Bill on 28 October and help persuade the government to fully fund implementation of this new legislation.

The bill, proposed by Conservative MP Bob Blackman in June, would impose tougher conditions on councils and force them to offer emergency accommodation to those in need for up to two months.

'Growing crisis'

Sir Steve Bullock, executive member for housing of representative body London Councils, said: "Councils across London have prevented or relieved nearly 30,000 cases of homelessness in the last financial year.

"If we are to tackle what is becoming a growing crisis in our city and across the country, government must give local authorities the resource and tools to carry out their duties."

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said it was "sympathetic" to the aims of the Homelessness Reduction Bill and was "currently considering its contents".

"No-one should ever have to sleep rough. That is why we have launched a £40m homelessness prevention programme, including £10m grant funding for services to help those at imminent risk of sleeping rough," he added.

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