Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced a £2.35m funding boost to tackle mental health issues among rough sleepers.
The announcement is timed to coincide with World Homelessness Day and Mental Health Awareness Day, which are both occurring on the same day – a symbolic twinning of two issues that can so often go hand in hand.
According to the Mayor’s office, half of all people sleeping rough in London last year were recorded as having mental health needs.
The Government must stop ignoring the root causes of homelessness
“We will continue to do everything we can to help rough sleepers off the streets of London, including doubling City Hall’s outreach team and opening new shelters,” said Khan.
“To go further, we are announcing today a new pilot to ensure dedicated mental health professionals can provide specialist support to people on the streets who need it the most.”
The new collaborative project will see teams of mental health professionals from NHS Mental Health Trusts joining outreach workers from organisations including St Mungo’s, Thames Reach and Single Homeless Project. The hope is that by linking up with dedicated teams of outreach workers, the mental health specialists will be able to offer people sleeping rough more flexible and accessible support.
“It’s a scandal how many people living rough on the streets are suffering severe mental ill health,” added Khan.
“I have been consistently clear that the Government must stop ignoring the root causes of homelessness and urgently invest far more in the services we need to truly end homelessness, and that includes mental health care.”
In the years 2010-2017, rough sleeping across the country rose by 169% and to date, there is little sign that the government is tackling the crisis. This makes local and regional initiatives even more vital.
Earlier this year, Londoners raised £247,000 to help the homeless people of the capital as part of the Mayor’s winter rough sleeping campaign. Meanwhile money from City Hall towards tackling street homelessness has risen from £8.5million to £18million this year.
Poor mental health can be a cause and a consequence of people sleeping rough
According to the Mayor’s office, money from City Hall supported more than 3,500 rough sleepers off the streets and helped a further 1924 people at risk of returning to rough sleeping.
However, homelessness in London continues to rise as it does across the UK, with 320,000 people across the country homeless – of which 168,000 are in London.
There are currently around 2,000 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.
Kath Sims, the head of outreach at St Mungo’s, added: “Poor mental health can be a cause and a consequence of people sleeping rough.
“What’s vital is getting people the support they need at the right time. Partnerships such as these are important in helping people move away from the streets long term so they can move forward with their lives.”