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Call for action to tackle ill health of homeless

Campaigning charity says three quarters of homeless people have health problems

Mark Gould

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

With rising rates of homelessness, campaigning charity St Mungo's Broadway is today urging the chairs of England's 152 Health and Wellbeing Boards (HWB) in England to take urgent action to tackle the ill health of homeless people in their area.

Launching a new campaign called Homeless Health Matters, St Mungo's cites latest statistics which show that in the last four years there has been a 26% increase in people who approached their council because they are facing homelessness. In that time there has also been a 77% increase in the number of people sleeping rough in London annually.

St Mungo's own research in Homeless Health Matters reveals:

  • 73% of homeless people have a physical health problem
  • Two thirds (65%) have a mental health problem
  • The average age of people who die while homeless is 47, for women it is 43
  • 53% of homeless women and 34% of homeless men have attempted suicide at least once
  • Many homeless people struggle to register with a GP, often due to not being able to provide a permanent address
  • The annual cost of hospital treatment for homeless people is at least £85m a year

Earlier this month the charity, together with Homeless Link, revealed that two thirds (64%) of HWB had no reference to single homeless people within their local plans. Seven (14%) made no mention of homeless people at all.

St Mungo's Broadway is now asking the HWB chairs to sign the charity's Homeless Health Charter and pledge a commitment to measure and understand the health needs of homeless people by including them in local health plans, and to commission more services to meet those needs.

Howard Sinclair, Chief Executive of St Mungo's Broadway, said: “Homelessness hurts. Homeless people have some of the highest levels of poor health within our society. We have launched this campaign Homeless Health Matters to demand action to improve the health of some of the most vulnerable.

“Local authorities have a duty to improve the health of all the people in their area, yet we have found that too often people are simply not getting the care they need. By signing up to our Homeless Health Charter, Health and Wellbeing Boards can start to plug the gaps, by including homeless people in their local health plans and they can really start tackling inequalities and improving people's health.”

St Mungo's Broadway has also released a video to mark the start of the campaign - titled 43. The video, which highlights the “shocking truth” behind the average age of death of homeless women, has been voiced by property expert and campaign supporter Sarah Beeny.

Supporters will be asked to share the video and email their local Health and Wellbeing Board to encourage them to sign the Homeless Health Charter.

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