FACT: People sleeping rough are more likely to die young. A report from the charity Crisis indicates that the average age of death of someone sleeping rough is just 47 years.
Nationally, there has been an increase in rough sleeping, and unfortunately Bournemouth is no exception.
Rough sleeping is the most severe and most visible form of homelessness – however, it might not always be the people you think. It is worth remembering that not all people who beg are homeless, and not all homeless people beg.
However, there are people sleeping rough in Bournemouth and this remains a high priority for the Council. We deliver and fund a wide range of services for homeless people (and those at risk of homelessness), including services for rough sleepers. Every day we work with partner services, charities and community groups to tackle this complex issue and support individuals whose lives have been devastated by homelessness.
One of the services we commission (together with the Borough of Poole) is the Bournemouth and Poole Rough Sleeper Team, delivered by St Mungo’s. These are the people who are out there each morning, in all weathers, making contact with people sleeping rough, assisting with their needs and providing them with the support to move off the streets.
Did you know we provide approximately 150 bed spaces with specialist support for homeless people? Or that we jointly commission a dedicated mental health worker? Or that our Housing Options Team sees about 1,000 people face to face every month seeking help with housing issues? Possibly not, and I think we could be better about telling people about what’s happening and how they can help.
As a Council, we want to make sure that all efforts are focussed on helping people to make positive change, to move off the streets and lead healthier and happier lives. That’s why we’re careful not to undertake actions which can sustain a street lifestyle, such as handing out food or money directly on the street. Although undoubtedly well intended, these activities can deter people from engaging with the support on offer.
To start the process of ‘coming inside’ can be tough. It’s particularly difficult if you have been sleeping out for a while, or you have other issues such as alcohol or drug misuse or mental health problems, because when you come inside you start to also look at these issues. And that is hard. If you know you can be sustained on the street with direct hand outs, then some prefer not to look at these issues and choose to continue as they are, facing a high-risk situation and the increased likelihood of an early death.
So, you’ve seen a person sleeping rough and you want to help. What is the most effective thing can you do?
Tell the Rough Sleeper Team. Call 0300 5000 914 or notify the team online.
Make your change count. Your money can best help people rough sleeping if you donate to a local charity working directly with people sleeping rough in Bournemouth.
Housing Strategy & Policy Manager