There is nothing new or original in this post. But while there are people sleeping on the streets of our towns and our cities, the basic points below need to be repeated again and again.
The UK is the one of the world’s richest countries. So why is it acceptable for large numbers of men and women to be sleeping rough on the streets every night?
Sleeping rough can be a dangerous and traumatising experience. Many people who sleep rough suffer from multiple health conditions, such as mental health problems and physical illnesses. They are also more likely to be violently assaulted than the general population. According to Homeless Link, Men and women who sleep rough are 13 times more likely to experience crime and 47 times more likely to be a victim of theft than the general public.
As well as a moral case for working to end rough sleeping, there is also a strong economic case to be made. According to the Department of Health (Healthcare for Single Homeless People, Office of the Chief Analyst, Department of Health, March 2010) single homeless people are five times more likely to use Accident and Emergency departments than the general public.
Homeless people use hospital services at a disproportionate rate to the general population, mainly because of barriers to accessing mainstream health services, such as inflexible appointment systems or the need for an address to register with a GP. Homeless men and women can face attitudinal barriers, such as discrimination or judgement by health workers.
Rough sleeping also has a negative impact on the economic prospects of the local area. In Brighton and Hove tourism can suffer from the visible rough sleeping and from anti-social behaviour, such as begging and street drinking, behaviour which is often caused by people who are not sleeping rough.
On Tuesday (1st September) a new organisation takes responsibility for working with men and women on the streets of Brighton and Hove. St Mungo’s Broadway have done some excellent work in London and elsewhere, and I look forward to BHT working with them. I would also like to place on record my thanks and admiration for the work of CRI which has delivered this particular contract for the last decade or more. The professionalism and dedication of CRI’s staff has been impressive, and I appreciate the leadership offered by Mike Pattinson. I wish both St Mungo’s Broadway and CRI well as we move into a new era.