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New research reveals the scale of violence against rough sleepers

People sleeping on the street are almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence and 15 times more likely to have suffered verbal abuse in the past year compared to the general public. 

According to new research from Crisis, drawing on a survey of 458 recent or current rough sleepers in England and Wales, almost 8 out of 10 have suffered some sort of violence, abuse or anti-social behaviour in the past year – often committed by a member of the public – while nearly 7 in 10 (66%) report that life on the street is getting worse.

The report shows that for current or recent rough sleepers:

  • More than 1 in 3 have been deliberately hit or kicked or experienced some other form of violence whilst homeless (35%)
  • More than 1 in 3 have had things thrown at them whilst homeless (34%)
  • Almost 1 in 10 have been urinated on whilst homeless (9%)
  • More than 1 in 20 have been the victim of a sexual assault whilst homeless (7%)
  • Almost half have been intimidated or threatened with violence whilst homeless (48%)
  • Almost 6 in 10 have had been verbally abused or harassed whilst homeless (59%)

The report also provides first-hand accounts showing how these experiences take a serious toll on people’s mental wellbeing and sense of isolation, leading some to question their self-worth and making it even harder for them to escape the streets (see quotes below).
The charity is also calling for action to prevent people from having to face the horrors of the street in the first place. The Homelessness Reduction Bill now going through parliament would help to make sure homeless people can get support at an early stage, ideally before they lose their home.

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “For anyone sleeping on the street, life can be a struggle just to survive. As our research shows, rough sleepers are far more likely to be victims of crime, including violent assault, abuse and intimidation, compared to the general public. This is a horrifying state of affairs and shows why we need to prevent people ending up in this situation in the first place.

“Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for homeless people. While others are enjoying the comfort of family and friends, homeless people face a daily struggle just to stay safe and escape the cold. That’s what makes our work at Christmas so important. Every year, Crisis opens its doors to thousands of homeless people, offering a safe, warm welcome with food and companionship, as well as access to vital services.

“Yet we also need to make sure people can get help all year round, ideally before they become homeless in the first place. The Homelessness Reduction Bill currently making its way through parliament aims to make sure people facing homelessness can get support when they need it, and we urge the public to help by calling on their MP to back this crucial bill.”

The charity’s Christmas centres are run by an army of more than 10,000 volunteers. As well as warmth, companionship and three hot meals a day, guests receive healthcare and specialist advice on housing, work and benefits and are encouraged to take up the life-changing opportunities on offer at Crisis centres across the country during the year ahead.

Jon Sparkes added: “None of this work would be possible without the generosity and compassion of thousands of individuals, organisations and companies, who give their time, funds and goods to make Christmas happen for some of society’s most vulnerable people.”

Read and download the report