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New research shows that people sleeping on the street are almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence and 15 times more likely to have suffered verbal abuse in the past year, when compared to the general public. Homeless charity Crisis surveyed 458 recent or current rough sleepers in England and Wales and found that almost eight out of 10 have suffered some sort of violence, abuse or anti-social behaviour in the past year – often committed by a member of the public – while nearly seven in 10 report that life on the street is getting worse.
Crisis spoke to rough sleepers, who asked that their first names only were used. Simon said: “It was some guy. He said, ‘Are you homeless?’ I said, ‘Yeah’, and he just kicked me in the head. I was sat on the floor reading my book.”
Dan added: “I’ve had young lads coming up to me like giving me loads of shit, you know, call me a dirty scumbag and scrounger and all that. But they haven’t got a clue, you know?”
Philip told researchers: “We don't know if we’re going to get burnt alive or anything, it’s too dangerous out there. I’m glad that we have got each other out there because I don’t know how people cope on their own, I really don’t.”
The report shows that more than one in three of the rough sleepers Crisis interviewed had been deliberately hit, kicked or had experienced some other form of violence whilst homeless (35 per cent). Almost one in 10 had been urinated on and seven per cent had been sexually assaulted while homeless.
Homeless Link says that despite the results of Crisis’ research, they believe many people are concerned when they see someone sleeping rough. Homeless Link aim to reduce violence against homeless people with their StreetLink mobile phone app, which enables people to send an alert about a rough sleeper and helps connect them to local support services.
Crisis believe that preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place is key. They are encouraging people to the support the Homelessness Reduction Bill, which is in parliament now and aims to make sure people facing homelessness can get support when they need it.
Matt Downie, Director of Policy and external affairs at Crisis, said: “This is a shocking state of affairs and shows why we need to prevent people ending up in this situation in the first place. We’d urge anyone experiencing or witnessing this sort of abuse to report it to the police immediately. At the same time, the police must act to reassure homeless people that their safety is paramount and any crimes against them will be fully investigated.”
Jacqui McCluskey, Director of Policy at Homeless Link, said: “Although we know that rough sleeping is dangerous, these latest figures revealing the extent of the violence and abuse that people are subjected to are shocking. They further highlight the urgent need for more action to prevent people from ending up on the streets in the first place.