One in four believe people sleeping rough are to blame for ending up on the streets

On World Homeless Day, charity highlights new research challenging misperceptions of rough sleepers

More than a quarter of people in the UK (28%) believe that people sleeping rough are to blame for their situation while 38% blame the government, according to new research from homelessness charity Evolve Housing + Support.

Evolve commissioned the research to explore misperceptions of rough sleepers at a time when rough sleeping is on the rise. Latest government statistics show a 15% increase in the last year alone, rising to 18% in London*.

A survey of over 2000 people revealed that a massive 72% believe that rough sleepers could get themselves off the streets if they wanted to. In reality, poor mental and physical health, as well as low literacy or numeracy skills due to an education cut short, present huge barriers to rough sleepers applying for jobs and living independently.

Meanwhile, just 1% thought childhood trauma such as violence or abuse was the main factor in people ending up on the streets. This is in stark contrast to recent research from Evolve among homeless people using its services which found that a shocking 80% had experienced a childhood trauma including physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or violence within the family. More than a quarter (29%) said this was the primary cause of their homelessness. 87% of respondents had a mental health diagnosis.

The charity is using the figures to highlight the root causes of homelessness and the complex stories behind the people seen sleeping on the streets. It aims to challenge perceptions of rough sleepers, increase understanding and highlight the need for counselling to help break the cycle of homelessness once and for all.

Despite misconceptions about the reasons for people ending up on the streets, people do want to help, with nearly two thirds of people (63%) doing something to help someone sleeping rough in the past year. Half of people (50%) had given money or food directly, 22% gave money to a housing and homelessness charity, and 7% even offered a work opportunity.

Jeremy Gray, CEO of Evolve, says:

“This research reveals that while the vast majority of people want to help rough sleepers, underlying this is a misconception that it’s easy to get off the streets and that there is therefore an element of choice in where they have ended up. We know from the people we see every day that the reasons people end up homeless are not only incredibly complex, but often stem from traumatic incidents in their childhood that they’ve not received the right support to recover from. This can lead to mental health issues, drugs and alcohol, and leaving education early, all of which can be the start of a downhill spiral that ends in homelessness.

“We’re calling on the public to think about the stories behind the faces they see on the streets and acknowledge rough sleepers as people just like them who’ve faced some incredibly hard challenges in life. Rough sleepers often tell us they feel invisible and isolated. Only by increasing understanding and empathy can we break down the stigma and help people sleeping rough get the support they need.”

Evolve helps over 2,000 homeless people in London each year, providing housing, counselling and employment and skills training. It also works in schools to mentor ‘at risk’ children to give them coping strategies to deal with trauma, in the hope that this will help to prevent homelessness later in life.

“We want to stop homelessness in its tracks, whether it’s providing support to rough sleepers today, or working with children to stop it happening in the future. Our mentors help children who are at risk of becoming NEET (not in employment, education or training), and disengaging with their education, teachers and peers, to help them overcome the reasons for this and move forward to a future without homelessness.

For more information on Evolve’s services and to donate visit www.evolvehousing.org.uk.

To refer a rough sleeper to StreetLink, a website which allows members of the public to alert local authorities to people sleeping rough in the area, visit www.streetlink.org.uk

– Ends –

For more information or to interview an Evolve spokesperson contact Kate Beard or Julia Pitman at Amazon PR on Kate@amazonpr.co.uk or call 020 7700 6952.

Notes to editors

About World Homeless Day 2018

World Homeless Day is held on 10th October and has been going since 2010. Find out more at https://www.bigissue.org.uk/news/2018/september/26/world-homeless-day-10th-october-2018

About the research

The research was conducted by Censuswide, with 2,483 general respondents (1002 living in London) aged 16+ between 22.08.2018 – 28.08.2018.  The survey was conducted from a random sample of UK adults.  Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

* Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Rough Sleeping Statistics Autumn 2017, 16 February 2018

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