Let’s Talk Mental Health

Mental health and homelessness often go hand in hand.

In fact, its difficult to understate the impact of homelessness on mental health and vice versa.

85% of the people we support report facing childhood trauma while 50% of people sleeping rough in London have a mental health support need.

This is only the reported figures: in reality, most people experiencing homelessness will face a mental health issue before, during or after their time on the streets. This can be a vicious cycle that is difficult to escape.

Additionally, many people struggle with chronic mental health conditions. If they don’t receive suitable help for this, they may fall through the cracks in support systems and be forced onto the streets.

But by understanding how people’s mental health issues begin and how this effects their time sleeping rough, we can work with them to make real change.

Housing and Mental Health

Even before a person becomes homeless, their mental health can deteriorate due to housing concerns.

Unsafe Housing

Home is meant to be a safe and comfortable space for all of us. Unfortunately this isn’t the reality for many.

Many homes in the UK, especially in the privatively rented sector, are not safe to live in. This can be due to damp and mold, pests, overcrowding and more.

While landlords are legally required to fix these problems, they often ignore the issues faced by their tenants. This could be for a mixture of reasons.

For example, landlords may charge lower-than-average market prices for their accommodation if its unsafe. Some people, including those at risk of homelessness, may have limited budgets for the rent and so, are forced into accepting unsafe housing as their only option for shelter.

This unaffordability can cause extreme stress and anxiety to those looking for housing, especially if others, such as children, are dependent on them.

Additionally, some renters might not know their housing rights or feel uncertain about asking about them, especially if their right to live in the UK is uncertain. This can allow poor housing situation to go unchallenged and worsen over time.

We’ve also worked with many people who’ve been forced out of their homes when a partner become abusive.

Feeling trapped in these conditions can cause depression and anxiety for many people. It can also worsen existing mental health conditions like OCD and Agoraphobia, as well as others.

As someone’s mental health worsens due to poor housing, it can become difficult for people to feel motivated in looking for support or better housing. Because of this, a vicious cycle appears where mental health is worsen and support can’t be found, allowing mental health to continue to be effected over time.

Homelessness and Mental Health

If these housing issues become too much to bear or lead to eviction, people can quickly become homeless. As we’ve seen above, this means people are entering the streets with, and often because of, mental health issues.

This can create a cycle of homelessness that is difficult to break.

mental health and homelessness cycle graphic

Life on the streets is full of traumas and is inherently a form of trauma by itself. Experiences of assault, theft and unsafe sleeping conditions are common and can all impact a person’s mental health severely.

While people are suffering, mental health support can be difficult to access when your homeless if you don’t know where to turn or are nervous to seek help.

This can lead people into poor coping mechanisms, such as substance use, which can also effect their mental health and limit the support systems they are entitled to accessing.

Again, this can create a cycle of experiencing homelessness and poor mental health that becomes tougher to break.

But now that we understand the issues people sleeping rough are facing, how can be stop them?

How we make a difference

At The Connection at St. Martin’s, we’re keenly aware of how mental health and homeless impact each other. We see mental health impact the people we support everyday and have a strategy in place to support them.

This all starts with our Theory of Change.

Before people even step foot into our centre, we’re thinking about their mental health and how traumatic experiences may be effecting them.

When we meet people on outreach, we’ll have a quick chat to get to know them and see what support they’d like to access. Sometimes, we bring a doctor with us who can help in accessing mental health needs and let people know what options are available to them.

Once people walk through the red door, we continue to support them with their mental health.

This includes simple things like offering a warm, safe space to stay. In the long-term, we can also provide therapy sessions and a specialist support worker.

But our support goes deeper than direct approaches. Every aspect of our services has been designed to support those who are struggling with their mental health, in everything we do from chatting with non-triggering language to offering spaces (such as our art group) to express yourself and process your experiences.

This work can achieve a lot and has helped us house 185 people in the last year. IT shows that with the right support, everyone can leave the streets behind for good.

How you can help?

Know your rights:

As a people facing homelessness, renter or home-owner, you can protect yourself and others from falling into homelessness while struggling with mental health.

One key way to do this is to know and share housing rights information for people struggling with their mental health.

Support our work

We wouldn’t be able to do this life-changing work without people like you. If you’d like to learn more about what we do, you can sign up to our newsletter here.

This gives you exclusive updates on our work and the state of homelessness in the UK.

Additionally, you can support our work by donating to The Connection at St. Martin’s.

These funds will go towards homing people sleeping rough with their mental health and will support them on their journey home.

Help us make London a city where no one sleeps rough on our streets.