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Rough sleepers and complex needs

Prolonged periods of rough sleeping have a significant impact on someone's mental and physical health. The longer someone experiences rough sleeping for, the more likely it is they will develop additional mental and physical health needs, substance misuse issues and have contact with the criminal justice system (collectively known as complex needs). The more complex needs someone has, the more help they will need to move on from homelessness and rebuild their lives.

Rough sleeping is a dangerous and isolating experience. People sleeping rough are more likely to be victims of crime and almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence (in the past year compared to the general public). Women are particularly vulnerable, nearly 1 in 4 have been sexually assaulted whilst rough sleeping. Additionally, many people who rough sleep develop issues with drugs and alcohol.  

Our It's No Life At All report (2016) shows how dangerous rough sleeping is.

Accessing services

Many people who experience rough sleeping struggle to access the support services they need. For example, if someone has both a mental health and drug or alcohol problem, they can often be refused help by both mental health and substance abuse services until they have addressed either issue. Additionally, many mental health services will not carry out assessments on the street so it is often difficult for people who are sleeping rough to get access to the help they need either through mental health outreach teams or referrals to mental health services.

Getting people into appropriate accommodation quickly is important. Rough sleeping can be prevented if services work together to identify people at risk and move people off the streets as quickly as possible. The No Second Night Out (NSNO) model is used by many local authorities to move new rough sleepers into accommodation.

In many areas, the lack of appropriate accommodation acts a barrier for getting people off the streets. We think that the government should invest in a range of housing to prevent rough sleeping occurring. Read more about our work on housing supply.

We have published research that shows the effectiveness of different housing models and services for rough sleepers and people with complex needs:

See also: ending rough sleeping.